In typical millennial fashion, the first thing NASA’s new Mars Lander has done after arriving on Mars is to stop off for a selfie.
Thankfully, the 360-kilo robot actually came armed with a selfie stick (it’s own long robotic arm).
The InSight lander used the arm to snapped a series of pictures that NASA turned into a stunning mosaic released this week.
InSight landed in November on a mission to study the inside of Mars in order to more about how it formed and understand the processes which led to the birth of all the planets in our solar system.
The lander’s instruments include a seismometer to detect ‘Marsquakes’ and a probe to monitor the flow of heat beneath the surface of the planet.
In the two weeks since it landed, scientists are thrilled to find the area in front of the spacecraft pretty much free of rocks, hills and holes.
That should make it a safe place for InSight’s two geology experiments, which will be moved to the ground in the coming weeks.
Lead scientist Bruce Banerdt of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory says the red sandy expanse might seem ‘pretty plain’ – if it weren’t on Mars.
He said, ‘We’re glad to see that.’
Last week, the Nasa InSight lander captured a ‘haunting, low rumble caused by vibrations from the wind’, which is the only audio that’s ever been heard from the Red Planet.
These vibrations were detected by an ultra-sensitive seismometer developed in the UK and an air pressure sensor sitting on the lander’s deck.
Sue Horne, head of space exploration at the UK Space Agency, said: ‘This is brilliant news because it means we know the sensors have survived the rigours of landing on Mars and are meeting the requirements to achieve their science goals.
‘It is just amazing to hear the first ever sounds from Mars.’
The exploration robots used sensors to pick up vibrations from InSight’s solar panels, meaning the whole spacecraft acts like a giant microphone, said InSight science team member Professor Tom Pike of Imperial College London.
‘The solar panels on the lander’s sides are perfect acoustic receivers,’ Prof Pike said.