Map of Mars with spacecraft landing sites labeled.
Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Published: April 30, 2018

InSight's landing site is Elysium Planitia, a flat, smooth plain selected not for its surface features, but for safety considerations. InSight's purpose is to study the interior of Mars, not the surface. Thus, in the selection of a landing site, what's on the surface mattered less on this mission than for previous rover missions focused on the geology.

Planitia is Latin for a flat surface, geometric plane or flatness or a plain. Elysium is from the ancient Greek name for an afterlife paradise, usually referred to in English as the Elysian Fields.

The landing site lies in the western portion of Elysium Planitia, centered at about 4.5 degrees north latitude and 135.9 degrees east longitude. This is just 373 miles (600 kilometers) from Curiosity’s landing site, Gale Crater.

The landing ellipse is about 81 miles (130 kilometers) long, generally west to east, and about 17 miles (27 kilometers) wide, covering the area within which the spacecraft has about a 99 percent chance of landing when targeted for the center of the ellipse.

InSight takes 360-panoramic images in all directions at this landing site. Scientists expect a flat surface, no hills nearby and few large rocks in view. That is based on high-resolution images taken from orbit as part of thorough evaluations for selecting the site.


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