The Best View of InSight

The HiRISE camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter got its best view yet of the InSight lander on September 23, 2019.
October 16, 2019
CreditNASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona
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The HiRISE camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter got its best view yet of the agency's InSight lander on Sept. 23, 2019.

HiRISE has been monitoring InSight's landing site on the Red Planet for changes such as dust-devil tracks (the slightly dark diagonals streaks crisscrossing the surface). This new image clearly shows the two circular solar panels on either side of the lander body. From end to end, the panels span 20 feet (6 meters); the image was taken from an elevation of 169 miles (272 kilometers) above the surface. The bright spot on the lower side of the spacecraft is the dome-shaped protective cover over InSight's seismometer. Surrounding the spacecraft is a dark halo created by retrorocket thrusters scouring the surface during landing. Dark streaks seen crossing diagonally across the surface are dust-devil tracks.

Several factors make this image crisper than past images. For one thing, there's less dust in the air this time of year compared to before. And shadows are offset from the lander because this is an oblique view looking west. Moreover, the lighting was better for avoiding the bright reflections from the lander or its solar panels that have obscured surrounding pixels in other images. The seismometer cover to the south of the lander is still bright because its dome shape always produces a mirror-like reflection over some small area.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, manages both the orbiter and lander missions for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. JPL is a division of Caltech. The University of Arizona in Tucson operates HiRISE, which was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. in Boulder, Colorado.