Mars InSight Lander is Photographed by Passing Spacecraft

The images have helped NASA scientists pinpoint InSight's exact location.
Jessica Miley

NASA’s Mars InSight Lander has been photographed by another NASA spacecraft, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). Mission scientists now know exactly where the InSight is located on the red planet. 

InSight touched down on Mars on November 26, but its team only knew it was safely somewhere on an 81-mile-long (130-kilometer-long) landing ellipse on Mars.

Thanks to HiRISE (which stands for High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) which took pictures on December 6, and again on Tuesday, December 11 the mission team can clearly locate the lander, heat shield, and parachute on Elysium Planitia. 

Images show all gear close together on Mars plain

NASA has released three of the images taken by HiRISE. In these fascinating pictures, the Lander's gear appears teal because light reflected off their surfaces causes the color to be saturated.

Looking carefully at the images, you can see that the area around the lander looks dark, that’s due to the blast from the retro rockets during descent. 

A butterfly shape on the surface shows the lander's solar panels on either side. All equipment is within 1,000 feet (several hundred meters) of one another. 

Mars InSight Lander is Photographed by Passing Spacecraft
Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

InSight will probe deep into the red planet

The Mars InSight Lander mission part of NASA's Discovery Program, managed by the agency's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

The InSight probe will use advanced scientific equipment to probe deep into below Mars surface to collect and analyze samples as well as taking temperature data and measuring the planets ‘heartbeat’ using an ultraprecise seismometer. 

The Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (or SEIS) onboard the probe can spot vibrations the size of a hydrogen atom.

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InSight is the first time that NASA has ever probed under the surface of Mars, all previous exploration missions have collected data only from its surface and atmosphere. 

NASA having a record year of achievements

Studying the inside of Mars is expected to shed light on the makeup of Earth as well as other rocky planets in our Solar System.

The research will also go some way to figuring out the exact composition of Mars and offer clues to the best way for humans to possibly survive up there. 

The successful landing of Insight was just one of many huge achievements by NASA this year, in addition to InSight the space agency announced its new private partners for future moon missions as well as successfully deploying another spacecraft to take samples from the Asteroid Bennu.

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