NASA ends the InSight mission that studied the interior of Mars

NASA’s InSight mission to Mars came to an end, when their batteries run out, after four years of collecting “unique” scientific data, during which detected more than 1,300 marsquakes and meteorite impacts.

Mission controllers at NASA’s Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) were unable to establish contact, for two consecutive times, with the InSight lander, leading them to conclude that the spacecraft’s solar batteries have run out of power.

Although NASA will remain vigilant in case any signal from the module is produced, it is considered “unlikely that signals from it will be produced”, after its last communication on December 15.

InSight landed on Mars in 2018 and was designed to carry out scientific activities for two years, a lifespan that it far exceeded.

It even kept making discoveries as dust on its solar panels gradually reduced their power levels, data scientists will use for years, NASA reported.

NASA’s director of science missions, Thomas Zurbuchen, indicated that, although “although saying goodbye to a spacecraft is always sad, the fascinating science that InSight has realized is cause for celebration.”

Zurbuchen referred, in particular, to the seismic data collected by this mission, which “by themselves offer enormous knowledge not only of Mars, but also of other rocky bodies, including Earth.”

InSight, short for Inner Exploration Through Seismic Investigations, Geodesy, and Heat Transport, was dedicated to studying the interior of Mars, and its data has provided details about its inner layers, weather, and much seismic activity.

Its highly sensitive seismometer, along with daily ground-based monitoring, detected 1,319 marsquakes, including those caused by meteoroid impacts.the largest of which unearthed boulder-sized chunks of ice late last year.

These impacts help scientists determine the age of the planet’s surface, and seismometer data provide a way to study the planet’s crust, mantle, and core.

In fact, the seismometer was the last scientific instrument to remain on as dust accumulated on the lander’s solar panels gradually reducing their power.

All missions to Mars face challenges, and InSight was no different, recalls NASA, referring to its mechanical excavator, designed to drill up to five meters deep and measure the heat inside.

Designed for the loose, sandy soil of other missions, it could not traction in the unexpected lumpy soil surrounding InSight, so it only went as far as 16 inches, though it did collect “valuable data on the physical and thermal properties of the soil,” which is useful for future missions.

In closing the mission, JPL Principal Investigator Bruce Banerdt noted, “We’ve thought of InSight as our friend and colleague on Mars for the past four years, so it’s hard to say goodbye,” but “it’s earned his well-deserved retirement.

The InSight mission had various European partners, including the Spanish Center for Astrobiology (CAB) that provided the wind and temperature sensors.