Monday, July 15, 2024

New image reveals NASA spacecraft covered in Martian dust


Zoom / Planetary scientist Paul Byrne created this set of NASA images showing the InSight spacecraft on its 10th day on Mars, and the lander 1,201 days later.

Paul Byrne / Twitter / NASA

Anyone planning to go to Mars will likely be responsible for the dust. a lot from dust.

in advance this month NASA announced It will soon have to halt scientific operations on its Mars InSight probe due to low energy levels from the car’s dust-coated solar panels. The spacecraft, which landed on the Red Planet in November 2018 to study seismic activity, simply cannot produce enough energy to operate normally.

NASA scientists said InSight detected more than 1,300 earthquakes, including a relatively strong one 5 magnitude earthquake On May 4, this was the largest earthquake yet detected, and at the maximum of what scientists hope to monitor. This seismic activity has allowed scientists to glean details about the red planet’s internal structure.

But scientists say they expect InSight to be completely inoperable by December of this year, so they plan to end science operations for the craft this summer. That’s because InSight’s solar panels, which produced 5,000 watt-hours of power each day after landing, can now only generate about 500 watt-hours. The amount of daily energy continues to decrease due to the accumulation of dust on the solar panels over the past three and a half years.

For some NASA missions to Mars, passing tornadoes have helped remove dust from the spacecraft’s solar panels, as happened with the Spirit and Opportunity rover. Unfortunately, this did not happen for the seismic lander.

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The first step toward closing InSight involves placing the spacecraft’s robotic arm into the stowed position. This arm was initially used to deploy the InSight seismometer, and later for several missions including Dust removal From InSight solar panels. But now there simply isn’t enough power to move it regularly, and scientists want to keep what’s left to run the seismometer a little longer.

But before it was stored, the robotic arm broke off One last selfie From InSight, the dramatic result shows just how dusty the spacecraft has become. The entirety of InSight is now covered in cold, dry, reddish dust.

The death of a starship in distant worlds always feels bleak. Humanity sends these metal machines into hostile environments, where they struggle to survive and provide us with new knowledge about the unknown. Eventually, they succumb to cold, radiation or dust, and we can no longer communicate with them.

But InSight was a file good The spacecraft, which outlived its design by two years and produced a wealth of science, including the discovery that the core of Mars is much smaller than expected.

Rosario Tejeda
Rosario Tejeda
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