Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spots InSight on red planet

The InSight lander resting on the surface of Mars. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has spotted the InSight lander, its parachute and heat shield resting on the dusty surface of Mars along with a dark blast pattern where the lander’s thrusters disturbed the ground moments before touchdown. The images were captured on 6 and 11 December by the HiRISE camera aboard the MRO spacecraft.

InSight, its heat shield and the backshell connected to the parachute show up as teal coloured in the photographs, the result of MRO’s camera being saturated by reflected sunlight. The lander’s two circular solar arrays can just be made out.

InSight’s heat shield is visible at left, with the lander in the center and its backshell and parachute to the right. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

InSight landed on Mars on 26 November, touching down on Elysium Planitia to kick off a planned two year mission. Engineers currently are studying the area around the lander before using a robot arm early next year to place a German temperature sensor and a French seismometer on the surface to study the red planet’s interior.