NASA’s groundbreaking Mars Insight Lander mission meets dusty demise
This story is part Welcome to Marsour series exploring the red planet.
The withdrawal of a major space mission is an occasion of both sadness and gratitude. On Wednesday, NASA announced the official end of the Mars InSight lander’s mission to study the interior of the Red Planet. We have knew this day was comingsince it became clear, dust had been choking InSight’s power supply, preventing light from reaching its solar panels.
“Mission controllers at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California were unable to contact the lander after two consecutive attempts, leading them to conclude that the solar-powered batteries of the spacecraft were running out of power – a state engineer calls it ‘dead bus,’” NASA said in a statement.
The lander initially did not respond to communications from Earth on December 18. This prediction has now come true. He was last in contact on December 15.
“We’ve considered InSight our friend and colleague on Mars for the past four years, so it’s hard to say goodbye,” said InSight principal investigator Bruce Banerdt of JPL. “But he earned his well-deserved retirement.”
InSight arrived in the Elysium Planitia region of the Red Planet on November 26, 2018. The hover lander may not have shone with the same glamor as NASA’s charismatic Mars rovers, but it has revolutionized our understanding of the formation and evolution of the planet. One of InSight’s slogans was “Taking Mars’ Vital Signs”.
The lander survived its original mission and received an extension until the end of 2022. InSight encountered a few speed bumps along the way, notably when its burrowing “mole” failed to penetrate the floor. The mole was supposed to take the internal temperature of the planet, but NASA abandoned the effort early 2021.
Dying space missions recalled in inspiring final images
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Some of InSight’s biggest insights come from its seismometer, which recorded mars tremors, including a absolute unit of an agitator earlier this year. The data collected by InSight will keep scientists busy for years to come.
Mars dust was the culprit behind NASA’s dear Opportunity rover, and struck again when it came to InSight. The agency had hoped that a whirlwind would blow off the layer of dust from the lander’s solar panels, but that never happened. As the current dwindled, NASA turned off the scientific instruments and prioritized work on the seismometer.
InSight delivered one last selfie earlier in 2022, and the image showed how thick the dust was. the final lander image of December 11 showed the rocky Martian landscape and the seismometer covered with a dome on the ground. In addition to the picture, NASA wrote a poignant message from InSight’s perspective: “My power is really low, so this may be the last image I can send. Don’t worry about me though: my time here has been both productive and serene.”
Rest well, InSight. You were a good lander.
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