NASA InSight lander rocks its journey to Mars: A view in pictures

Follow along with InSight's travels, from solar array testing to breathtaking images beamed from the surface of Mars.

Amanda Kooser
1 of 22 NASA/JPL-Caltech

InSight's first image from Mars

NASA celebrated on Nov. 26 when its InSight lander successfully touched down at the Elysium Planitia region on Mars. This momentous occasion marked the end point of a 300-million-mile trip from Earth. InSight is now snapping images of its new home as the NASA team looks ahead to investigating the planet's temperature, interior and marsquakes.

Shortly after landing, InSight snapped a view of its surroundings using the Instrument Context Camera (ICC) mounted on the front of the lander. This camera's dust cover collected small particles of dirt, but Mars' horizon is still visible in the distance. 

First published Nov. 27, 2018, 10:43 a.m. PT. Update, Dec. 6, 2:02 p.m.: Added new images of InSight's instruments and environment. Update, Feb. 4, 1:12 p.m.: Added images of the claw and seismometer. 

2 of 22 NASA/JPL-Caltech

InSight's IDC looks at Mars

The InSight lander beamed back a second image from its first day on Mars, this time from a camera mounted on its robotic arm. The transparent dust cover on this camera came out of the landing much cleaner than the cover on the front-mounted camera. This image shows part of the lander, but also gives an excellent view of the rocky Mars landscape.

3 of 22 NASA/JPL-Caltech

InSight lander illustration

NASA illustrated this view of what InSight might look like on the planet's surface with its solar arrays open and its instruments deployed. 

4 of 22 NASA/Charles Babir

InSight on the launchpad

NASA's InSight mission to Mars launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California in May with an assist from an Atlas V rocket. 

5 of 22 NASA/Cory Huston

InSight launch

This dramatic image captures the launch of InSight on an Atlas V rocket from California in May 2018. 

6 of 22 NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU

The landing site

NASA needed to find a flat, relatively smooth landing spot for the stationary InSight mission. It chose Elysium Planitia, a large plains area. "This one was selected as having the largest proportion of its area classified as smooth terrain," NASA said.

7 of 22 NASA/Bill Ingalls

Celebrating the InSight landing

The NASA InSight team let loose with a celebration after confirmation of the lander's successful touchdown on Mars on Nov. 26. The team monitored the process from the Mission Support Area at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. 

8 of 22 NASA/JPL-Caltech

Mars Cube One satellites

NASA's InSight spacecraft didn't travel to Mars alone. These briefcase-size CubeSat satellites are collectively known as MarCO (Mars Cube One). They went along for the journey as an experiment to see how the little machines would function in deep space and helped relay images and communications from InSight back to Earth. 

9 of 22 NASA/JPL-Caltech

CubeSat spots Mars

NASA's MarCO-B CubeSat snapped this image of Mars in the distance on Oct. 2. The planet is circled. MarCO-B and its buddy MarCO-A became the first satellites of their kind to travel into deep space. NASA tested the CubeSats as an experiment to see if they could be used to relay communications during InSight's landing. The CubeSats worked as planned.

10 of 22 NASA/JPL-Caltech

MarCO leaves Mars

NASA's twin MarCO CubeSats accompanied InSight to Mars, but they didn't stick around. This image shows MarCO-B's farewell view of the red planet after InSight's landing. The briefcase-size satellites will remain in orbit around the sun until they run out fuel.

11 of 22 NASA/JPL-Caltech/Lockheed Martin

Names on Mars

This microchip contains 826,923 names submitted through NASA's "Send Your Name to Mars" project. The chip was installed on InSight's deck. NASA used an electron beam machine at the Jet Propulsion Lab to fit all the names onto the dime-size chip.

12 of 22 Lockheed Martin Space

Solar array

Engineers tested the deployment of InSight's solar arrays in January 2018. The lander successfully opened its arrays after arriving on Mars on Nov. 26. 

13 of 22 NASA/JPL-Caltech/Lockheed Martin Space

InSight's landing system

Landing on Mars isn't easy. This image from 2018 shows InSight's landing system, which helped it safely reach the surface of Mars. Components on display here include the thrusters, lander legs and science deck.

14 of 22 NASA/JPL-Caltech/LMS

InSight tests its camera

The NASA InSight team tested the lander's cameras before launch. This image shows a footpad as seen by the Instrument Deployment Camera (IDC). The IDC is attached to a robotic arm and will help InSight place its Mars instruments on the ground later in the mission. 

15 of 22 USAF 30th Space Wing/Chris Wiant

InSight gets a heatshield

Workers put InSight's heatshield into place in March 2018 to protect the lander during its fiery entry into Mars' atmosphere. The heatshield worked as designed, keeping the lander cool during the touchdown process.

16 of 22 NASA/JPL-Caltech/Lockheed Martin Space

InSight's robotic arm

Engineers with NASA contractor Lockheed Martin Space test InSight's robotic arm ahead of the lander's launch to Mars. The arm is officially known as the Instrument Deployment Arm (IDA) and will be used to set the lander's instruments on the ground so they can take measurements while in contact with Mars' surface. The jointed arm is just under 6 feet (1.8 meters) long.

17 of 22 NASA/JPL-Caltech

InSight moves its arm

InSight was able to test out its robotic arm and snap this image of using its Instrument Deployment Camera on Dec. 4, 2018. The dark object at the end of the arm is a scoop. You can also see a grapple that is tucked away for later use in moving instruments from the machine's deck onto the ground. 

18 of 22

Deck and instruments

NASA's InSight lander caught this view of its own deck and two instruments on Dec. 4, 2018. The copper-colored device is a seismometer for measuring marsquakes. The gray dome is a wind and thermal shield that'll protect the seismometer. 

The black cylindrical object is the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Probe (HP3) designed to drill into the Mars surface to take the planet's temperature.

19 of 22 Picasa

InSight looks at itself

This color-calibrated image from Dec. 4, 2018, shows part of the InSight lander with the reddish surface of Mars in the background. 

20 of 22 NASA/JPL-Caltech

InSight lander claw

InSight used a claw on the end of its robotic arm to grip the top of the seismometer before placing it on the ground to study marsquakes. The wind and thermal shield is in the background. NASA successfully set the seismometer down in December 2018.

21 of 22 NASA/JPL-Caltech

Marsquake detector

NASA's InSight team deployed the lander's seismometer to the surface of Mars in late 2018. 

22 of 22 NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA InSight seismometer cover

In January 2019, NASA once again put InSight's claw-equipped robotic arm to use. This time, the lander placed a protective cover over the seismometer on the ground. The cover keeps the marsquake detector safe from winds and temperature fluctuations.

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