NASA's InSight Mars Lander will bid adieu in few weeks
NASA's InSight Lander will soon reach the end of its four-year mission. The spacecraft has accumulated a huge amount of dust on its solar panels which has subsequently hindered power generation and has made it almost impossible to carry on. Scientists intend to make the most out of the Lander before it runs out of fuel. Sadly, it only has a few weeks left.
Why does this story matter?
- The iconic InSight Mars Lander mission will soon sign off.
- Ever since the spacecraft touched down on the planet in November 2018, it has revealed significant information regarding Mars' interior layers including the liquid core, the subsurface components, and marsquakes.
- Just recently, the spacecraft discovered a humongous crater on the planet resulting from a meteoroid strike.
This might be the last statement from the Lander...
The day is coming when I’ll fall silent, ending my nearly four Earth years (over two Mars years) of studying the Red Planet. As my time winds down on Mars, my team is helping make sure scientists can get the most out of everything I’ve gathered.— NASA InSight (@NASAInSight) November 1, 2022
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Here's what you need to know about the InSight Mission
InSight (abbreviated as Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport) was launched in May 2018 with the objective of probing the "inner space" of Mars, which includes the crust, mantle, and core. Along with understanding the evolution of the red planet which formed almost 4 billion years ago, the robotic explorer also measures tectonic activity and meteorite impacts.
Mars is a 'living, breathing planet'
"Finally, we can see Mars as a planet with layers, with different thicknesses, compositions," said Bruce Banerdt, the mission's principal investigator. "We're starting to really tease out the details. Now it's not just this enigma; it's actually a living, breathing planet."
The seismic data contains vital information
Did you know that the InSight Lander delivered the first seismometer to Mars in 40 years? The instrument has recorded more than 1,300 marsquakes, including those resulting from meteoroid attacks. These findings have enhanced our understanding of the planet's interior structure. The seismometer data recorded on Mars will be added to an international archive that encompasses 'all the terrestrial seismic network data locations.'
How did they manage the power crisis on the Lander?
When the power supply started dwindling a few months ago, the team decided to shut off all the science equipment on the Lander, including the fault protection system but made an exception for the seismometer. An unexpected dust storm forced scientists to turn off the seismometer as well. It will continue to work until the power supply runs out.
When will the Lander meet its end?
In case you're wondering if a gust of wind can wipe off the dust from the solar panels, that's considered extremely unlikely. The mission is expected to terminate in a few weeks. As per NASA, an official end will be declared when InSight 'misses two consecutive communication sessions with the spacecraft orbiting Mars.' The space agency's Deep Space Network will give the final nod.