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Tuesday 11 December 2018

Insight spacecraft sends selfie back to Earth after landing on Mars

From left, NASA officials Jim Bridenstine, Michael Watkins, Tom Hoffman, Bruce Banerdt, Andrew Klesh and Elizabeth Barrett make statements under a photograph sent from Mars by the InSight lander at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory Monday, Nov. 26, 2018, in Pasadena, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
From left, NASA officials Jim Bridenstine, Michael Watkins, Tom Hoffman, Bruce Banerdt, Andrew Klesh and Elizabeth Barrett make statements under a photograph sent from Mars by the InSight lander at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory Monday, Nov. 26, 2018, in Pasadena, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
From left, NASA officials Jim Bridenstine, Michael Watkins, Tom Hoffman, Bruce Banerdt, Andrew Klesh and Elizabeth Barrett celebrate the Mars landing of InSight during a press conference at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory Monday, Nov. 26, 2018, in Pasadena, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
James Bridenstine (L), Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), speaks along Michael Watkins, JPL Director, Project Manager Tom Hoffman and scientists Bruce Banerdt, Andrew Klesh and Elizabeth Barrett after the landing of spacecraft InSight on the surface of Mars, in Pasadena, California, U.S. November 26, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Bruce Banerdt (C), InSight Principal Investigator, NASA JPL, Hallie Gengl, Data Visualization Developer, NASA JPL, (R), and other NASA InSight team members celebrate after the first image of Mars from the Mars InSight lander are shown at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, U.S., November 26, 2018 NASA/Bill Ingalls/Handout via REUTERS
Astronauts on the International Space Station congratulate Michael Watkins (L), JPL Director, Project Manager Tom Hoffman and scientists Bruce Banerdt and Andrew Klesh (R) after the landing of the spacecraft InSight on the surface of Mars, in Pasadena, California, U.S. November 26, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake
James Bridenstine (L), Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) watches a replay of the celebration with Michael Watkins, JPL Director, Project Manager Tom Hoffman and scientists Bruce Banerdt and Andrew Klesh after the landing of the spacecraft InSight on the surface of Mars in Pasadena, California, U.S. November 26, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake
InSight project manager Tom Hoffman points at an image sent from the InSight lander after the space craft landed on Mars in the mission support area of the space flight operation facility at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory Monday, Nov. 26, 2018, in Pasadena, Calif. (AP Photo/(Al Seib /Los Angeles Times via AP, Pool)
NASA JPL engineers Julie Wertz-Chen (L), and Aline Zimmer, (C), react after receiving confirmation that the Mars InSight lander successfully touched down on the surface of Mars, at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, U.S., November 26, 2018 NASA/Bill Ingalls/Handout via REUTERS
Female engineers from NASA celebrate in the space flight operation facility at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) after the spaceship InSight landed on the surface of Mars, from Pasadena, California, U.S. November 26, 2018. Al Seib/Pool via REUTERS
People react as they watch on a video screen the spaceship InSight, NASA's first robotic lander dedicated to studying the deep interior of Mars, land on the planet's surface after a six-month journey, in Times Square in New York City, U.S., November 26, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
NASA engineers Kris Bruvold (L) and Sandy Krasner react in the space flight operation facility at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) as the spaceship InSight lands on the surface of Mars after a six-month journey, at JPL in Pasadena, California, U.S. November 26, 2018. Al Seib/Pool via REUTERS
NASA's InSight Mars lander acquired this image of the area in front of the lander using its lander-mounted, Instrument Context Camera (ICC) with the ICC image field of view of 124 x 124 degrees, on Mars, November 26, 2018. NASA/JPL-Caltech/Handout via REUTERS
NASA engineers Kris Bruvold (L) and Sandy Krasner react in the space flight operation facility at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) as the spaceship InSight lands on the surface of Mars after a six-month journey, in Pasadena, California, U.S. November 26, 2018. Al Seib/Pool via REUTERS
NASA engineers Kris Bruvold (L) and Sandy Krasner react in the space flight operation facility at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) as the spaceship InSight lands on the surface of Mars after a six-month journey, in Pasadena, California, U.S. November 26, 2018. Al Seib/Pool via REUTERS

Jamie Harris and Lizzie Roberts

Nasa has released the first image of the spacecraft InSight from the surface of Mars, after it successfully reached the planet after almost seven months travelling through space.

The Mars Odyssey orbiter relayed images of the spacecraft from its landing site, known as Elysium Planitia, at 1.30am GMT.

The US space agency tweeted one photograph, showing part of the InSight spacecraft and the Martian surface in the distance.

The spacecraft took the image of itself from the red dusty planet, arguably making it the first selfie on Mars.

People react as they watch on a video screen the spaceship InSight, NASA's first robotic lander dedicated to studying the deep interior of Mars, land on the planet's surface after a six-month journey, in Times Square in New York City, U.S., November 26, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
People react as they watch on a video screen the spaceship InSight, NASA's first robotic lander dedicated to studying the deep interior of Mars, land on the planet's surface after a six-month journey, in Times Square in New York City, U.S., November 26, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

The receiving of the images signals that InSight's solar panels, known as solar arrays, have now successfully opened, meaning it is able to collect sunlight and recharge its batteries each day.

Tom Hoffman, InSight's project manager at Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said: "The InSight team can rest a little easier tonight now that we know the spacecraft solar arrays are deployed and recharging the batteries.

"It's been a long day for the team.

"But tomorrow begins an exciting new chapter for InSight: surface operations and the beginning of the instrument deployment phase."

Using InSight's robotic arm, which has a camera attached, the mission team will be able to take more photographs in the coming days, Nasa has said.

This will help engineers to assess where to install the spacecraft's scientific instruments, which will be able to start sending back data to Earth within two to three months.

NASA JPL engineers Julie Wertz-Chen (L), and Aline Zimmer, (C), react after receiving confirmation that the Mars InSight lander successfully touched down on the surface of Mars, at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, U.S., November 26, 2018 NASA/Bill Ingalls/Handout via REUTERS
NASA JPL engineers Julie Wertz-Chen (L), and Aline Zimmer, (C), react after receiving confirmation that the Mars InSight lander successfully touched down on the surface of Mars, at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, U.S., November 26, 2018 NASA/Bill Ingalls/Handout via REUTERS

The InSight lander touched down on Mars just before 8pm GMT on Monday, surviving the so-called "seven minutes of terror", a tricky landing phase for the robotic probe, travelling at 13,200mph through the planet's thin atmosphere which provides little friction to slow down.

American space agency Nasa's 814 million dollar (£633 million) two-year mission aims to shine new light on how the Red Planet was formed and its deep structure, by mapping its core, crust and mantle.

NASA's InSight Mars lander acquired this image of the area in front of the lander using its lander-mounted, Instrument Context Camera (ICC) with the ICC image field of view of 124 x 124 degrees, on Mars, November 26, 2018. NASA/JPL-Caltech/Handout via REUTERS
NASA's InSight Mars lander acquired this image of the area in front of the lander using its lander-mounted, Instrument Context Camera (ICC) with the ICC image field of view of 124 x 124 degrees, on Mars, November 26, 2018. NASA/JPL-Caltech/Handout via REUTERS

InSight arrived on Mars's Elysium Planitia area north of its equator, described as an ideal spot for its flat, rockless surface.

It is the first attempt to reach Mars in six years.

Only 40% of missions to the planet have succeeded and all have been US-led.

Three UK-made seismometer instruments are on board InSight, part of a £4 million UK Space Agency effort to measure seismic waves.

Scientists from Imperial College London and the University of Oxford who created the instruments will be based at Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California to assist with the study, including selecting the best spot for the robot arm to place the seismometer.

"It is wonderful news that the InSight spacecraft has landed safely on Mars," said Sue Horne, head of space exploration at the UK Space Agency.

"The UK scientists and engineers involved in this mission have committed several years of their lives to building the seismometer on board, and the descent is always a worrying time.

"We can now look forward to the deployment of the instrument and the data that will start to arrive in the new year, to improve our understanding of how the planet formed."

A second instrument will burrow five metres into the ground of Mars, measuring the planet's temperature, while a third experiment will determine how Mars wobbles on its axis.

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