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NASA spots Mars InSight lander from space

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter snapped the newest machine on Mars. You can even see the solar panels.

Hello from above, InSight.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

NASA knew its InSight lander touched down just fine on the Elysium Planitia lava plain of Mars on Nov. 26. It just didn't know precisely where.

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) snapped images of the lander, its heat shield and its parachute on the planet's surface. NASA shared the views on Thursday. The shots come from the MRO's HiRise camera, which has given us a bevy of Mars beauty photos over the years.

The images have helped NASA pinpoint the lander's location, which is within its original target zone.


This mosaic shows the parachute, lander and heat shield. 

NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

The lander and its accessories look like teal green dots in the images. "That's not their actual color: light reflected off their surfaces cause the color to be saturated," explains NASA. The darkened area is the result of the lander's retrorockets blasting the landscape.

A close look at the lander image shows two round blobs. These are the lander's umbrella-like solar arrays and their shadows.

The MRO snapped the images on Dec. 6 and 11. The lander, parachute and heat shield are all within 1,000 feet (300 meters) of each other. The new images go nicely with InSight's first Mars selfie, which NASA released on Tuesday.

InSight is on a mission to study the interior of Mars and listen for marsquakes to better understand how rocky planets form. Its work is just beginning as NASA plans to deploy a drill and a seismometer to the surface in the coming months.