The last 10 minutes of terror last night while the InSight Mars Lander went down to the Martian surface at 12,300 MPH was definitely a biting nib, but the robotic science platform is now safe and sound – and sent pictures for prove it.
The first thing she sent was a few pictures of her surroundings: Elysium Planitia, a featureless plane, quite boring, but still perfect for InSight's drilling and seismic activity.
The images, taken with his Instrument Context Camera, are hardly exciting in themselves – a dirty landscape seen through a dusty tube. But when you consider that this is an unexplored territory on a distant planet, and that it is the dust and the Martian rubble that obstruct the lens, it suddenly seems quite amazing!
Decelerating against interplanetary speed and making a perfect landing was certainly the hardest part, but it was by no means the last challenge of InSight. After landing, he must still settle and make sure that none of his many components and instruments were damaged during the long flight and the short descent to Mars.
And the first good news came shortly after the landing, relayed via NASA's Odyssey spacecraft in orbit: a partial selfie showing it was intact and ready to roll. The picture shows, among others, the large mobile arm folded over the top of the LG and a large copper dome covering other components.
The telemetry data sent at about the same time shows that InSight has also successfully deployed its solar panels and its energy collection capability to continue operating. These fragile fans are essential for the LG, of course, and it's a great relief to know that they work properly.
This is just the first of many images sent by the LG. However, unlike Curiosity and other rovers, it will not move to take snapshots of everything it sees. Its data will be collected in the depths of the planet, allowing us to better understand the origins of the planet and our solar system.