• NASA has pinpointed the exact landing location of its newly launched InSight lander, using a powerful camera onboard another of the agency’s spacecraft, hovering around the Red Planet.
• On November 26, InSight landed within a 130 km ellipse at Elysium Planitia on Mars.
• However, there was no way to determine exactly where it touched down within this region.
• The HiRISE (which stands for High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) aboard Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) spotted Martian landscape and ground around the lander on Thursday, NASA said in a statement.
• It released three new features on the Martian landscape, which appear to be teal.
• However, it is not their actual colour, but light reflected off their surfaces caused the colour to be saturated.
• “The ground around the lander appears dark, having been blasted by its retro-rockets during descent. Look carefully for a butterfly shape, and you can make out the lander’s solar panels on either side,” NASA said.
• HiRISE also spotted the lander’s heat shield and parachute, on December 6 and again on December 11, NASA said.
About InSight lander
• They are within 1,000 feet (several hundred meters) of one another on Elysium Planitia, the flat lava plain selected as InSight’s landing location.
• The InSight lander also took the first selfie using the spacecraft’s robotic arm on December 6.
• It snapped a mosaic made up of 11 images, which includes the lander’s solar panel and its entire deck, including its science instruments, weather sensor booms and UHF antenna.
• The lander also sent another set of mosaic composed of 52 individual photos, showcasing the “workspace” – the approximately 14-by-7-foot (4-by-2-metre) crescent of terrain directly in front of the spacecraft.
• InSight will study the interior of Mars and will explore valuable science as NASA prepares to send astronauts to the Moon and later to Mars.
• The spacecraft will operate on the surface for one Martian year, plus 40 Martian days, or sols, until November 24, 2020.
Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics etc.
Prelims level: HiRISE
Mains level: Importance of the Mars mission