This image sent on October 30 may be the last received from NASA’s Insight lander on Mars, which is running out of power after almost four years of mission.
The photo shows the mission’s seismometer in the foreground, partially covered in dust.
The spacecraft’s power generation continues to decline as wind-blown dust thickens on its solar panels, so the team has taken steps to continue as long as possible on the power that remains. The finale is expected to come in a matter of weeks. Insight was launched on May 5, 2018, and reached Mars on November 26 of that year.
“The day is coming when I will shut up, ending my nearly four Earth years (over two Mars years) of studying the Red Planet. As my time on Mars draws to a close, my team is helping to ensure scientists can get the most out of everything I’ve collected,” read a message posted to the mission’s Twitter account on November 1.
The most important final step of the InSight mission is to store its trove of data and make it accessible to researchers around the world. Data from the lander has yielded details about the inner layers of Mars, its liquid core, the surprisingly variable subsurface remnants of its nearly extinct magnetic field, the weather on this part of Mars, and plenty of seismic activity, NASA reports. it’s a statement.
InSight’s seismometer, provided by France’s Center National d’Études Spatiales (CNES), has detected more than 1,300 ‘marsquakes’ since the lander touched down in November 2018, the largest being magnitude 5. It even recorded earthquakes. by meteorite impacts. Observing how seismic waves from those earthquakes change as they travel across the planet offers invaluable insight into the interior of Mars, but also provides a better understanding of how all rocky worlds, including Earth and its Moon, form.
Earlier this summer, the lander had so little power left that the mission turned off all of InSight’s other science instruments to keep the seismometer running. They even turned off the fail-safe system that would otherwise automatically shut down the seismometer if the system detects that the lander’s power output is dangerously low.
Recently, after a regional dust storm added to the lander’s dust-covered solar panels, the team decided to turn off the seismometer entirely to save power. Now that the storm is over, the seismometer is collecting data again, though the mission hopes the lander will only have enough power for a few more weeks.
NASA will declare the mission over when InSight loses two consecutive communication sessions with Mars-orbiting spacecraft, but only if the cause of the communication loss is the lander itself, said network manager Roy Gladden of JPL. After that, NASA’s Deep Space Network will listen for a while, just in case.
There will be no heroic measures to re-establish contact with InSight. While a mission-saving event – a strong gust of wind, for example, clearing the panels – isn’t out of the question, it’s considered unlikely. (EuropePress)