Mars InSight lander seen in first images from space

December 14, 2018, JPL/NASA
NASA's InSight spacecraft, its heat shield and its parachute were imaged on Dec. 6 and 11 by the HiRISE camera onboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

On Nov. 26, NASA's InSight mission knew the spacecraft touched down within an 81-mile-long (130-kilometer-long) landing ellipse on Mars. Now, the team has pinpointed InSight's exact location using images from HiRISE, a powerful camera onboard another NASA spacecraft, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO).

The InSight lander, its and parachute were spotted by HiRISE (which stands for High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) in one set of images last week on Dec. 6, and again on Tuesday, Dec. 11. The lander, heat shield and parachute are within 1,000 feet (several hundred meters) of one another on Elysium Planitia, the flat lava plain selected as InSight's landing location.

This isn't the first time HiRISE has photographed a Mars lander. InSight is based largely on 2008's Phoenix spacecraft, which the camera aboard MRO captured on the surface of Mars as well as descending on its parachute. While the HiRISE team at the University of Arizona also tried to take an image of InSight during landing, MRO was at a much less opportune angle and wasn't able to take a good picture.

InSight Lander. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona
Parachute. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona
Heat Shield. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona
The red dot marks the final landing location of NASA's InSight lander in this annotated image of the surface of Mars, taken by the THEMIS camera on NASA's 2001 Mars Odyssey orbiter in 2015. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

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Mark Thomas
5 / 5 (1) Dec 14, 2018
Looks like they missed the center point of the ellipse in the last figure by about 7-8 miles. Great accuracy for this type of mission, but I wonder if that is good enough for some proposed Valles Marineris missions. At some point we are going to need a martian GPS.
rrwillsj
5 / 5 (2) Dec 14, 2018
Me? I would have aimed for off-center of that ellipse. Thinking that towards the edge would be where we possibly find more diversity of Martian surface?

I like your idea of a GPS encircling Mars. It would support the use of flying / floating / hopping / bouncing probes in difficult aresography such as the Valles Marineris.
msunderland
5 / 5 (1) Dec 14, 2018
I suspect SpaceX will be the first to deploy a GPS around Mars since they have Satellite manufacturing experience with Starlink, and they will be the ones with a need...around 2025 for Starship.
Shootist
not rated yet Dec 17, 2018
do you people even know what GPS is?

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