Emily LakdawallaDec 13, 2018

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Spots InSight Hardware on Mars

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter may not have managed to spot InSight under its parachute, but it has finally spotted the lander, its parachute, and its heat shield resting on the Martian surface. The images confirm the location of InSight's landing site, a little to the north and west of the center of the landing ellipse.

First, the fantastic hardware images:

HiRISE images of InSight hardware on Mars
HiRISE images of InSight hardware on Mars This is a Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter HiRISE image of the NASA InSight lander, plus other pieces of hardware on Mars after its successful landing on 26 November 2018. It looks like the heat shield (upper right) has its dark outside facing down, since it is so bright (saturated, probably a specular reflection). The lander (middle) disturbed dust over a fair distance and has darkened the surface, as seen previously at the Phoenix and Curiosity landing sites. The bright spot associated with the lander is probably another specular reflection, and there are two smaller bluish extensions that are the solar arrays, plus their shadows. The backshell attached to the parachute (lower left) may have yet another specular reflection; the streak extending to the south well beyond the parachute is probably a pre-existing dust devil track. The lander is about 6 meters wide when the solar arrays are fully deployed.Image: NASA / JPL / UA

Higher-resolution versions of the images of the lander, the backshell and parachute, and the heat shield are all available. These will not be the best images HiRISE takes. I'm sure they'll target the landing site regularly over time, to watch how the blast effects of the landing rockets fade with time and wind.

I was prepared for this moment with a set of base maps. The best image of the landing location that was taken before landing is ESP_036761_1845. By good fortune, the lander fell near the center of the swath, which means HiRISE got the region in color before the landing. Here's the landing location in that HiRISE image:

Location of the InSight landing site on HiRISE image ESP_036761_1845
Location of the InSight landing site on HiRISE image ESP_036761_1845 This HiRISE image of Elysium planitia was taken on 30 May 2014 as part of the campaign to map the region for potential InSight landing site. It is the best-quality image of the location that InSight landed on 26 November 2018. The black dot shows the location that InSight eventually landed.Image: NASA / JPL / UA / Emily Lakdawalla

Using that location, I was able to locate the landing site within InSight's landing ellipse. Here it is:

Location of the InSight landing site within its landing ellipse
Location of the InSight landing site within its landing ellipse Insight landed near the center of its landing ellipse, at the spot marked with a yellow dot. The yellow rectangle marks the location of HiRISE image ESP_036761_1845, taken before landing. The base map is from Mars Odyssey THEMIS.Image: NASA / JPL / ASU / Emily Lakdawalla

Here is the landing site location information that the MRO team has derived, though the numbers may be off by as much as 60 meters (or 0.001 degree). The lander itself is reportedly at 4.499897° N, 135.616000° E.

If anybody needs illustrations or diagrams for a paper, talk to me!

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