Update, December 2, 2018: InSight is slightly tilted, but they say that is not a problem.
Here’s an excerpt:
InSight landed in what’s called a hollow, a crater that has been filled in with soil and leveled flat. In images taken from the elbow of the lander’s stowed robotic arm, the edge of the crater is visible. Once the team determines the diameter of the crater—it could be meters, maybe tens of meters—researchers can infer its depth and the amount of sand blown into it. Either way, this bodes well for the heat probe instrument, called HP3, which should penetrate the material with ease. “This is about as good news for HP3 as you could possibly hope,” he says.
Landing in the hollow was fortunate for another reason. InSight didn’t quite hit the bull’s-eye of its target landing zone, and ended up in terrain that, overall, is rockier than desired. But the hollow is mostly devoid of rocks. One, about 20 centimeters across, sits close to the lander’s feet, whereas three smaller ones lie farther away—but none poses a threat to placing the instruments. The hollow is flat and lacks sand dunes, and small pebbles indicate a surface dense enough to support the weight of the instruments. “We won’t have any trouble whatsoever,” Golombek says.
The biggest mystery for the lander team right now is figuring out exactly where it is. A Mars orbiter set to image the center of the landing zone on Thursday will miss the lander, because it missed the center slightly. An instrument on InSight called the inertial measurement unit has pinned the location to within a 5-kilometer-wide circle. InSight’s entry, descent, and landing team will refine that estimate down to a kilometer or less. . . .
See raw-images link at the bottom of this post.
Featured image: NASA InSight raw images page; this is the only one up at the moment.
Addendum: I’ve been thinking. Let’s look at that first image from InSight again:
Up until midday today, that red surface had not been disturbed, as far as we know, for several billion years.
We disturbed it. We immediately sent back a picture of it (and our disturbance), and here I am, embedding said picture, taken on Mars less than two hours ago, in a blog that can be seen worldwide.
Two points to make here:
- YES! Yes, THIS is the future I expected, as a child of the 1950s!
- Data from MAVEN reportedly shows that terraforming Mars is not possible–and the 2012 video below was made by art students, not rocket scientists–but I SO want something along these lines to happen. Hope it does, and in my lifetime, too (though, seriously, that’s being kind of greedy 🙂 )