The end of the queue is approaching NASA’s InSight Mars lander

This photo from December 6, 2018, taken by NASA, shows the InSight lander. The scene was assembled from 11 photographs taken with the help of a robotic arm. The spacecraft is losing power due to all the dust that has accumulated on its solar panels. NASA announced on Tuesday, May 17, 2022, that it will continue to use the spacecraft’s seismometer to detect seaquakes until its power is gone. Officials expect operations to stop in July, almost four years after InSight arrived on Mars. Credit: NASA via AP, file

After four years of exploring the interior of Mars, NASA’s InSight launcher is likely to go out of service this summer, as accumulated dust from solar panels will lose its power.

However, the lander will leave a legacy of data that will be used by scientists around the world in the coming years, which will help improve our understanding of planetary formation, NASA said on Tuesday, announcing the imminent completion of InSight scientific operations.

Equipped with a supersensitive seismometer, InSight recorded more than 1,300 “sea tremors”, including a magnitude 5 earthquake on May 4, the largest to date.

But around July the seismometer is turned off.

Landing gear energy level will then be checked about once a day and some pictures can still be taken. Then by the end of 2022 the mission will be completely stopped.

The reason: the accumulation of Martian dust for several months on two solar panels of the lander, each of which is about seven feet (2.2 meters) wide.

InSight, which already runs on only a tenth of the energy it had in the beginning, will soon discover that the batteries are low.

The rate of dust accumulation was more or less consistent with what was estimated by NASA.

The lander received a new implementation about a year ago when its robotic arm was put into new and unplanned use to remove some of the dust from solar panels, expanding the mission.

As a result of the maneuver, which was successfully conducted six times, the hand itself used dust to clean the panels, scooping up a little Martian soil and gently lowered himself onto the robot so that the dirt was scattered all over solar panelscleaning parts of their surface.

On Tuesday during a press conference on Tuesday, Bruce Banerdt of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory did not add anything to the landing craft to clear the panels.

Such a mechanism would allow “less to invest in scientific tools,” he said.


InSight, one of four missions now on the Red Planet, along with U.S. rovers Perseverance and Curiosity and China’s Zhurong, arrived on Mars in November 2018.

His seismometer, made in France, has since paved the way for great achievements.

“The interior was just a giant question mark,” said Banerdt, who has worked on the InSight mission for more than a decade.

But thanks to InSight, “for the first time in history, we were able to map inside Mars.”

Seismic waves, which differ depending on the materials through which they pass, give a picture of the inner space of the planet.

For example, scientists have been able to confirm that the core of Mars is liquid, and determine the thickness of the Martian crust – less dense than previously thought, and probably consists of three layers.

A magnitude 5 earthquake in early May was much larger than all previously recorded, and close to what scientists thought was the maximum on Mars, although it would not be considered a huge shock on Earth.

“This earthquake really will treasury scientific information when we invest in it, ”Banerdt said.

Earthquakes, in particular, are caused by plate tectonics, he explained. But they can also be caused when the earth’s crust is moving due to temperature anomalies caused by its mantle.

It is with this type of vibration that scientists think they are dealing with on Mars.

However, not all InSight’s scientific operations went smoothly, for example, when its thermal probe had trouble successfully burying itself under the surface to measure the planet’s temperature due to the composition of the soil where the robot landed.

Regardless, in light of the success of the seismometer, NASA is considering using the technique elsewhere in the future, said Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division.

“We would really like to create a complete network on the moon to really understand what’s going on there.”

NASA’s InSight spacecraft has recorded a monster earthquake on Mars

© 2022 AFP

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