Sun's Out, Guns Out: NASA's InSight Lander Shows Off Robotic Arm in New Mars Photos

Now that she is settled into her new home on Mars, NASA’s InSight lander can get to work digging into the planet’s crust to measure things like its ground motions and heat flow. But first, a few more selfies can’t hurt. Having sent its first post-landing image back home the day it arrived, InSight recently doubled down on the “wish you were here” snapshots, this time with shots of its robotic arm extended, its instruments gleaming in the sunlight, and the rocky Martian landscape as far as its robotic eye could see.

Image credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech 

In addition to showing off its impressive wingspan and shiny new toys, InSight shared images of its workstation – which won’t change because the lander is not designed to roam around the planet like rovers do – with the team back home at NASA. The images were captured using the lander’s Instrument Deployment Camera. “Today we can see the first glimpses of our workspace,” said Bruce Banerdt, principal investigator at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in a statement. “By early next week, we’ll be imaging it in finer detail and creating a full mosaic.” The spot doesn’t look that special at first glance, and features-wise, it’s really not. According to NASA, Elysium Planitia is a flat, smooth plain that was selected not because of its promising soil, but because it looked safe. “InSight’s purpose is to study the interior of Mars, not the surface,” the agency wrote in a statement after the landing. “Thus, in the selection of a landing site, what’s on the surface mattered less on this mission than for previous rover missions focused on the geology.”

There is another camera located under InSight’s deck, but its view was slightly compromised during the landing, NASA reports. “We had a protective cover on the Instrument Context Camera, but somehow dust still managed to get onto the lens,” said project manager Tim Hoffmann in the same statement. “While this is unfortunate, it will not affect the role of the camera, which is to take images of the area in front of the lander where our instruments will eventually be placed.” More images are expected soon following a routine delay in operations, but it will weeks before any actual drilling begins. In the meantime, let’s just appreciate that InSight made the trip, is in working condition, and has shared new looks of a planet nearly 34 million miles away.