This story will be updated throughout the day today.
InSight touched down on Mars today, bringing NASA's total of successful Mars landers to 8 and total number of active NASA Mars missions to 6. Confirmation of the successful landing arrived on Earth at 11:52:59 local Pacific time, which corresponds to a spacecraft event time of 19:44:52 if I've done my math correctly. The spacecraft flawlessly executed its carefully choreographed 6.75-minute landing sequence and returned this dust-covered photo of its landing site.
NASA / JPL
InSight's first picture from the Martian surface
InSight returned this photo shortly after landing on 26 November 2018. The dust cover was still on the camera, and it has worked: there is a lot of dust (black spots) on the cover. The cover is also responsible for the darkening of the corners. Another image will follow after the dust cover is permanently removed. This photo was taken from the mission Twitter feed and will be replaced with better data once it is released.
The landing site is, as expected, flat as a pancake, a plain plane broken only by scattered small rocks. But don't call the site boring. "There are no boring places on Mars," Mars scientist and landing site maven Mat Golombek admonished me earlier in the day. At the post-landing press briefing, InSight principal investigator Bruce Banerdt said that the lander was only tilted 2 degrees, which will make it very easy to place the instruments.
Following the landing and first photo, InSight should have deployed its solar panels, but we won't know for sure if this crucial event happened for several more hours. We have to wait for Mars Odyssey's overflight and data relay to know if the lander is really power-positive and ready to proceed in its preparations for its scientific mission. Another thing to look forward to today is the possibility of a Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter HiRISE photo of the spacecraft under its parachute. I'll update this story when I hear any news on either of these fronts -- stay tuned!
In the meantime, one of the two InSight companion CubeSats returned this AMAZING photo.
NASA / JPL
MarCO view of Mars after InSight landing
MarCO-B, one of the experimental Mars Cube One (MarCO) CubeSats, took this image of Mars from about 6,000 kilometers away during its flyby on 26 November 2018. This image was taken at about 20:10 UTC while MarCO-B was flying away from the planet after InSight landed.
It'll be a couple of days until the dust covers are blown off the two InSight cameras, so we're going to have to do the best we can with this dirty view for now.
Here's a quick-and-dirty attempt at processing out distortion in the first image from InSight. It does look like the lander is a bit tilted, which is not ideal, but the workspace looks flat as a pancake and nearly rock-free. I wonder what the thing right in front is though. pic.twitter.com/5tpnFoIL8J