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Emily LakdawallaNovember 27, 2018

New Cameras on Mars!

InSight Begins Sharing Raw Images on Mission Website

There was jubilation when InSight landed, but I'm just as happy to be writing about a distinct InSight event: The flow of raw images sent from Mars, straight to the Web, has begun. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory has begun sharing images from InSight's two cameras to the mission website. You can check this website any time, any day, to see if there are new images from Mars, and sometimes, you'll be able to see them even before mission team members do. Here, for example, is the first image returned from InSight's Instrument Deployment Camera, sent straight to the Web.

First image from InSight's Instrument Deployment Camera on Mars

NASA / JPL

First image from InSight's Instrument Deployment Camera on Mars
InSight took this photo shortly after landing, at 14:04:35 local solar time. The camera is mounted on the robotic arm; the upper limb of the arm is at right, and lower limb just right of center. The arm's scoop is just right of center, and its grapple is just below center. The shiny box a left is the SEIS instrument, awaiting placement on the surface. A lossless PNG version is available here.

We can't see a lot of Mars in this photo; we'll be able to see more once they stretch out the arm a little. What we can see is fascinating, though. It looks like the surface nearer the lander is very smooth and rock-free, but just beyond that smooth area are some quite substantial rocks. It looks like InSight may have gotten really lucky with its landing site. We'll learn more in the days ahead.

The image is so crisp and beautiful! It's higher quality than most raw images you've seen from Mars in part because the mission has chosen to share the images in PNG format rather than JPG format. JPG format compresses images in order to make their file sizes smaller, which helps web pages load quickly, but which can destroy fine details in an image. PNG is a lossless format. If I'd put the image on my website as a PNG, it'd cost you nearly a megabyte of data to download that one photo, and my webmaster would be mad with me. So I did embed it as a JPG, but I left you a link for the PNG version so you can choose to appreciate the data in all its original crispness.

For further reading, here's an open-access article about how the cameras work.

This mission is going to proceed at a steady but slow pace. I'll be waiting for several significant events to happen before rounding up the mission updates into posts chronicling their progress, but in the meantime, Mars fans will be able to follow InSight's daily activities through the steady release of images, straight from Mars. Thank you, NASA and JPL, project scientist Bruce Banerdt and camera lead Justin Maki, for making these images so readily available to us, letting us look over your shoulders as you get to work on Mars!

Read more: InSight, pretty pictures, pics of spacecraft in space, mission status, Mars

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Emily Lakdawalla

Senior Editor and Planetary Evangelist for The Planetary Society
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