Video Shows the First Spotty Glimpse of Mars Sent Home by InSight Lander

With a second round of applause and cheers erupting from maroon-clad engineers, NASA revealed InSight’s first photo, snapped from the surface of the red planet after the probe’s successful landing at 2:54 pm EST on Monday. The image was relayed from 33.9 million miles away. After surviving the “seven minutes of terror” involved in a successful descent to Mars, InSight gave scientists a first look from its landing site at Elysium Planitia only a few minutes after landing.

The image, projected on the screen of Mission Control at the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, California, shows a beige circle, covered with dark flecks.

“You can see potentially a lot of debris that might be on the camera lens,” says Rob Manning in NASA’s livestream. “We don’t know what we’re looking at.” He explains that the little dots won’t permanently obstruct the view; InSight’s will eventually remove its dust cover and take a clearer image.

“Fantastic job, MarCO!” an engineer shouts from the back of the room, referring to the nickname for the Mars Cube One satellites. The credit for InSight’s ability to deliver photos so quickly goes to the two mini satellites, nicknamed Wall-E and EVE, that cruised behind InSight on its way to Mars. Although InSight claims all the credit for taking the photos after landing with one of its own two cameras, to deliver the photos, the lander sent the photos to the MarCOs, which then relayed the images to Earth.

bruce banerdt insight image
Principal investigator of the InSight mission, Bruce Banerdt (third from left), waits to see whether MarCOs could deliver the first image.

The fish eye-style images of the view directly in front of InSight can help scientists determine the best placement for the lander’s precious scientific payload in the future.

“It looks like there’s not a lot of rocks in the field of view,” Manning comments. A piece of the lander is also visible in the bottom left of the frame.

The internet already delivered its take on the photo on Twitter, claiming the view looks more like a potato, or asking Matt Damon to stop by and clean off the lens.

This first image is one of many to come. The Mars Reconnaissance orbiter flew over InSight during its landing, recording data of the entire maneuver and possibly nabbing a photo along the way. Scientists can also look forward to more snapshots from the red planet soon from the Mars Odyssey by 8:30 pm EST.