NASA’s InSight didn’t ship with wheels, but it doesn’t need to cruise around Mars to give us stunning views. Using a camera attached to the lander’s robotic arm, NASA shows us how a sunrise would look if we were standing on the red planet’s surface.
At about 5:30 a.m. Mars local time, the Instrument Deployment Camera (IDC) captured the sun peeking over the horizon.
13 hours later, InSight snapped another picture at sunset.
“It’s been a tradition for Mars missions to capture sunrises and sunsets,” said Justin Maki, a co-investigator of the InSight science team and imaging lead. “With many of our primary imaging tasks complete, we decided to capture the sunrise and sunset as seen from another world.
Instead of color correcting the images to see more features, the imaging team wanted to show what it would look like if we were sitting right beside the InSight lander.
Another camera, the Instrument Context Camera (ICC) located beneath the lander’s deck, was also busy snapping a series of images at sunset. That camera revealed wispy clouds floating across the twilight sky.
If you were on Mars’ surface for that sunset above, you better hope your spacesuit came with a heater. The high that day was just 0.1 degrees Fahrenheit with a low of an icy -145.4 degrees Fahrenheit. Winds were out of the west at around 10 mph with the highest gust topping out at 25.9 mph.
What’s next for InSight? It’ll keep patiently listening for marsquakes during its nearly two-year primary mission. While the lander won’t move an inch, the science it collects could tell us a whole lot about Mars’ present and distant past.
What processes shaped Mars into the planet we see today? Does Mars still have tectonic activity today? We may have an answer already on the second question. The InSight team hopes to answer both over the next two years.