NASA spacecraft sends 'selfie' from surface of Mars


A picture of the surface of Mars taken by the NASA's InSight lander. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/PA

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

A spacecraft that spent seven months travelling through space has sent back a 'selfie' from the surface of Mars.

The InSight robot took a photo of itself after landing on the Red Planet, ahead of its two-year mission to map the planet's core, crust and mantle.

It is hoped that the £633 million mission will shed new light on how Mars was formed, as well as its deeper structure.

The receiving of the 'selfie' signals that InSight's solar panels have successfully opened, meaning it is able to collect sunlight and recharge its batteries each day.

An artist's impression of the InSight lander. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/PA 

Using InSight's robotic arm, which has a camera attached, the mission team will be able to take more photographs in the coming days, NASA has said.

The robot touched down on Mars just before 8pm last night after a tricky landing phase, in which it entered the planet's atmosphere at 13,200mph, and slowed down just in time to avoid a crash landing.

Three UK-made seisometer's are fitted on board the robot which will measure seismic waves on the planet.


'Phoned home'

There is also an instrument to burrow five metres into the ground of Mars to measure the planet's temperature, and a third experiment planned which will determine how Mars wobbles on its axis.

Head of space exploration at the UK Space Agency, Sue Horne, said: "The UK scientists and engineers involved in this mission have committed several years of their lives to building the seismometer on board, and the descent is always a worrying time.

"We can now look forward to the deployment of the instrument and the data that will start to arrive in the new year, to improve our understanding of how the planet formed."