Advance Inspection of NASA's Next Mars Landing SiteThis map shows footprints of images taken from Mars orbit by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera as part of advance analysis of the area where NASA's InSight mission will land in 2018. The final planned image of the set is targeted to fill in the yellow-outlined rectangle on March 30, 2017.
HiRISE is one of six science instruments on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which reached Mars in 2006 and surpassed 50,000 orbits on March 27, 2017.
The map covers an area about 100 miles (160 kilometers) across.
HiRISE has been used since 2006 to inspect dozens of candidate landing sites on Mars, including the sites where the Phoenix and Curiosity missions landed in 2008 and 2012. The site selected for InSight's Nov. 26, 2018, landing is on a flat plain in the Elysium Planitia region of Mars, between 4 and 5 degrees north of the equator.
HiRISE images are detailed enough to reveal individual boulders big enough to be a landing hazard. The March 30 observation that completes the planned advance imaging of this landing area brings the number of HiRISE images of the area to 73. Some are pairs covering the same ground. Overlapping observations provide stereoscopic, 3-D information for evaluating characteristics such as slopes. On this map, coverage by stereo pairs is coded in pale blue, compared to the gray-green of single HiRISE image footprints.
The ellipses on the map are about 81 miles (130 kilometers) west-to-east by about 17 miles (27 kilometers) north-to-south. InSight has about 99 percent odds of landing within the ellipse for which it is targeted. The three ellipses indicate landing expectations for three of the possible InSight launch dates: white outline for launch at the start of the launch period, on May 5, 2018; blue for launch on May 26, 2018; orange for launch on June 8, 2018.
InSight -- an acronym for "Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport"-- will study the deep interior of Mars to improve understanding about how rocky planets like Earth formed and evolved.
The University of Arizona, Tucson, operates HiRISE, which was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Boulder, Colorado. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Project and the InSight Project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, built the orbiter and is building the lander.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona