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NASA InSight lander flexes robot arm, captures new Mars views

Things are looking rosy on the Red Planet for NASA’s InSight lander. After a successful touchdown on Nov. 26, the lander is now stretching its robotic arm and sending back some new looks that are part-selfie, part-planetary.

Unlike NASA’s wandering rovers, InSight is designed to stay in one place and deploy instruments onto the surface of Mars. To do that, it will use a robotic arm with a reach of 6 feet (2 meters). 

The arm’s Instrument Deployment Camera (IDC) is attached to its elbow, so it can monitor InSight and its surroundings. 

InSight’s arm-mounted camera caught this view of its seismometer and drilling instruments.


NASA/JPL-Caltech

A fresh IDC image from Tuesday shows the arm and a stowed-away grapple. The copper-colored device is a seismometer that will hunt for marsquakes. The dome-shaped object behind it is a wind and thermal shield for the instrument.

On the left side of the image, you’ll see a black cylinder. This is the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Probe (HP3) that will drill deep into Mars to take the planet’s temperature. 

The InSight team is in no rush to deploy the investigative machines. The lander’s cameras will continue to examine the area to help scientists determine where to place the instruments. It could be several months before the seismometer and drill get to work. 

inisght4

This view from Dec. 4 shows the scoop and grapple on InSight’s robotic arm.


NASA/JPL-Caltech

Another new image gives us a good look at the scoop and grapple on the end of the arm. We can also see a relatively smooth bit of Mars landscape near the lander. 

“Today we can see the first glimpses of our workspace,” said InSight principal investigator Bruce Banerdt. “By early next week, we’ll be imaging it in finer detail and creating a full mosaic.”  

InSight is on a mission to study the vital signs of Mars so we can learn more about how rocky planets are formed and how Mars ended up taking such a different path from Earth. 

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