October 20, 2019 – The HiRISE camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter recently sent home eye-catching views of the agency’s InSight lander on Mars.
HiRISE has been monitoring InSight’s landing site in the Elysium Planitia region of the Red Planet for changes to the surface, such as dust-devil tracks. Taken on September 23, 2019, at an altitude of 169 miles (272 kilometers) above the surface, the new image is NASA’s best view yet of InSight from space. It clearly shows the two circular solar panels on either side of the lander body, spanning 20 feet (6 meters) from end to end.
The bright spot on the lower side of the spacecraft is the dome-shaped protective cover over InSight’s seismometer. The dark halo surrounding the spacecraft resulted from retrorocket thrusters scouring the surface during landing, while dust devils created the dark streaks that run diagonally across the surface.
Several factors make this image crisper than a set of images released after InSight’s November 2018 landing. For one thing, there’s less dust in the air this time. Shadows are offset from the lander because this is an oblique view looking west. The lighting was also optimal for avoiding the bright reflections from the lander or its solar panels that have obscured surrounding pixels in other images. However, bright reflections are unavoidable with the seismometer cover just south of the lander because of its dome shape.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, manages the InSight and MRO 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. MRO was built by Lockheed Martin Space.