NASA’s InSight is receiving a bit less power each day than it did previously due to the buildup of Mars dust. The fantastic lander will soon run out of fuel. Up to the conclusion of the extended mission in December, NASA intended to gradually turn off all of its instruments while allowing it to sometimes signal “I’m still here.” The group has now determined that InSight will continue to perform what it does best, which is find Marsquakes. The seismometer on the lander has been a crucial tool for monitoring earthquakes on Mars, including the most potent one ever, which was recorded last month. It has also provided crucial insights about what Mars’ interior is like right now.
Mission control aims to extract every single bit of scientific knowledge it can. InSight won’t go lightly into that good night, to quote Dylan Thomas. It’s leaving on a high note. By the end of this month, the instrument was meant to shut down automatically, but now the lander will be modified to keep the seismometer working for as long as it can—possibly until the end of August. InSIght features a fault prevention mechanism that, in the event of insufficient power, turns off the non-essential components. In order to measure more Marsquakes, the seismometer will be able to go around that. More than 1,300 tremors have been found so far.
According to a statement from Lori Glaze, head of NASA’s Planetary Science Division in Washington, “InSight hasn’t done educating us about Mars yet.” Before the lander’s activities come to an end, “we’re going to acquire every last piece of science we can.” According to Chuck Scott, project manager for InSight at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, “the aim is to acquire scientific data all the way to the point when InSight can’t work at all, rather than preserve energy and run the lander with little research advantage.”
The solar panel’s solar panel has accumulated dust, which is why there is less electricity available. It is currently less than 10% of what it was when the specialized equipment initially landed on Mars more than 3.5 years ago. On April 24, 2022, the 1,211th Martian day (or sol) of the mission, NASA’s InSight Mars lander captured this last selfie. The lander is far more dust-covered than it was in its first selfie, which was shot in December 2018 just after landing, or in its second selfie, which was made up of pictures taken in March and April of the following year.
To get a complete selfie, the arm must move many times. The crew will shortly place the robotic arm of the lander in its resting position (known as the “retirement posture”) for the final time in May 2022 since InSight’s dusty solar panels are providing less power. For NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, JPL oversees InSight. The NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, oversees the Discovery Program, which includes InSight. The InSight spacecraft, including its cruise stage and lander, was manufactured by Lockheed Martin Space in Denver, which also provides support for the mission’s spacecraft operations.