NASA officially retires Mars InSight lander 4 years after landing on Red Planet

NASA officially retires Mars InSight lander 4 years after landing on Red Planet

NASA officially retires Mars InSight lander 4 years after landing on Red Planet

NASA has officially retired its Mars InSight lander, the first robotic probe specifically designed to study the deep interior of a distant world, four years after it arrived on the surface of the Red Planet, the US space agency announced on Wednesday.

Mission controllers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) near Los Angeles determined the mission was over when two consecutive attempts to reestablish radio contact with the lander failed, a sign that InSight’s solar batteries were depleted. running out of energy.

NASA had predicted in late October that the spacecraft would reach the end of its operational life in a few weeks due to growing accumulations of dust on its solar panels, depleting its batteries’ ability to recharge.

JPL engineers will continue to listen for a signal from the lander, just in case, but hearing InSight again is unlikely, NASA said. The stationary three-legged probe last communicated with Earth on December 15.

InSight landed on Mars in late November 2018 with instruments designed to detect planetary seismic rumbles never before measured on Earth, and its initial two-year mission was later extended to four.

From its perch on a vast, relatively flat plain called Elysium Planitia just north of the planet’s equator, the lander has helped scientists gain a new understanding of Mars’ internal structure.

The researchers said the InSight data revealed the thickness of the planet’s outer crust, the size and density of its inner core, and the structure of the mantle that lies between the two.

One of InSight’s main achievements was to establish that the Red Planet is indeed seismically active, recording more than 1,300 earthquakes. He also measured seismic waves generated by meteor impacts.

“The seismic data from this Discovery Program mission alone offers tremendous insight not only about Mars, but other rocky bodies, including Earth,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the Missions Directorate. NASA scientists.

A year ago, one such impact was found to have carved out boulder-sized chunks of water ice surprisingly close to Mars’ equator.

Even as InSight retires, a newer robotic visitor to the Red Planet, NASA’s Perseverance science rover, continues to prepare a collection of Martian mineral samples for future analysis on Earth.

This week, Perseverance dropped off the first of 10 sample tubes it was to leave at a surface collection site on Mars as a backup cache, in case the main supply stored in the rover’s belly could not. not, for some reason, be transferred to a recovery spacecraft as planned. in the future, NASA said.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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