Monday, July 15, 2024

Here’s the last selfie from the faded Insight Mars lander


Panoramic selfie of the dust-covered InSight lander.

NASA has shared the final self-portrait that the Mars Insight lander will take, showing dust-clad solar panels blending into the surrounding regolith. The InSight mission is expected to end this year, and the probe will need all of its remaining power to gather as much scientific data as possible.

At a press conference last week, NASA announced that InSight likely to cease all operations at the end of 2022. The end of the mission is due to the amount of dust accumulating on the spacecraft’s solar panels, which limits the amount of power the spacecraft can draw from.

For three years, InSight has been hard at work on the surface of Mars, Taking pictures of the Martian sky And use the seismometer to detect swamps. For two years, the probe has tried to use the “Mole” heat probe to drill into the surface of Mars, Before the tool is stuck in the spongy soil. Earlier this month, the lander Discover the largest seismic activity known to date On another planet: a magnitude 5 earthquake occurred somewhere inside Mars.

The probe also gave scientists Best look at the interiors of Mars, So are the geological and seismic systems operating on the planet today. InSight has so far detected 1,313 earthquakes, and so far it can detect more before its science operations are over.

One of InSight's dust-covered solar panels.

The mission’s end has been a creeping certainty. The lander has previously been Enforced in safe modes of Martian dust storms. bridging measures It helped remove some dust from the plates—that is, by deliberately dumping Martian dust on the dust to expel it—but such measures seem to have prolonged the inevitable.

This last selfie was taken on April 24, and it shows the amount of dust that has accumulated on the spacecraft’s solar panels. It’s a lot more dust than was found in the first and second selfies of the lander, Taken in December 2018 And Between March and April 2019.

The selfies are a mosaic, meaning they are stitched together from multiple photos, each photo requiring the robotic arm holding the landing camera to be in a different position. With power supplies dwindling, selfies simply aren’t worth draining batteries, and the robotic arm will be moved to rest mode (or “retirement mode”) this month, according to NASA.

At last week’s press conference, Cathia Zamora Garcia, deputy project manager for InSight, said Earth rover science operations may end as soon as mid-July, but the Martian climate is unpredictable.

No matter how much time remains for InSight, we will likely never see the lander in such a great panorama again.

More: Dust storm sends China’s Mars rover into safe mode

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Rosario Tejeda
Rosario Tejeda
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