InSight lander snaps Mars selfies galore

Mars InSight photo
A photo snapped by the camera on the InSight lander’s robotic arm shows instruments on the spacecraft’s deck with Martian terrain in the background. The pointer indicates the location of two chips bearing the microscopic etched names of 2.4 million fans. (NASA / JPL-Caltech Photo)

One week after landing on the Martian plain of Elysium Planitia, NASA’s InSight lander is on a selfie-snapping spree — and the photos could be used as a guide for 2.4 million Earthlings and their descendants to look for their names.

InSight’s selfies aren’t meant to be a vanity project for the lander or its creators. Rather, they signal the start of a picture-taking campaign that’s designed to identify the best spots to plunk down the mission’s seismometer and temperature-measuring “mole.”

Pictures from full-color Instrument Deployment Camera, which is mounted on the spacecraft’s 6-foot-long robotic arm, will help scientist ensure that the spots they pick will be sufficiently level and rock-free to accommodate the first instruments to be lifted up and placed down permanently on the surface of another planet.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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