Orbiter spots InSight lander on Mars’ surface

Mars InSight spottings
NASA’s InSight lander (at center, with its two solar arrays), its heat shield (at right) and its parachute (at left) were imaged on Dec. 6 and 11 by the HiRISE camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Click on the image for a larger version. (NASA / JPL-Caltech / University of Arizona Photo)

Two weeks after NASA’s InSight lander touched down on Mars, its precise location on Elysium Planitia has been pinpointed, thanks to pictures from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

And it’s not just the car-sized lander: The orbiter even identified the sites where the spacecraft’s heat shield as well as its backshell and attached parachute ended up.

In today’s mission update, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory says the lander, heat shield and parachute are all within 1,000 feet of one another on the “heavenly plain” where InSight is gearing up to monitor Mars’ seismic activity and heat flow.

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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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