NASA InSight Lander Will Not Work After December

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Courtesy of Alastair Rae (Flickr CC0)

Soon, the Mars InSight lander for NASA will not have the ability to give out images and back data that scientists use to understand the red planet better. It has been losing power slowly for some time now due to dust accumulating on the solar panels. It does not help that there are darker skies expected for the coming months because of the amount of dust in the air.

The solar panels of NASA’s device had the ability to create the energy of approximately 5,000 watt-hours in each space day. That is enough energy to run an electric oven for one hour and 40 minutes. Currently, it is only able to create approximately 500 watt-hours per day. Which can only run an electric oven for a maximum of 10 minutes.

NASA is under the impression that the device will not be able to hold its seismometer once we hit summer’s end. This stops the scientific activities. The InSight’s instruments that are non-seismic will be powered on occasionally after May. However, NASA believes that it will no longer be responsive closer to December.

NASA Lander Ability

A powerful dust cleansing event, like a dust devil, would be the only way to stop this from happening. If a minimum of 25% of the dust were to be removed, the device would have the ability to continue the scientific activities.

In November 2018, the device landed on Mars. It has been collecting information on Marsquakes for the last few years to help NASA receive depth measurements and learn about the makeup of the planet’s core, crust, and mantle.

Courtesy of NASA Kennedy (Flickr CC0)

Since the lander went to Mars in 2018, the device’s seismometer has picked up on over 1,300 Marsquakes and many thousands of dust devils. The device has discovered that the crust is more broken and drier than scientists originally believed. This is due to impacts from asteroids. It appears to be more similar to the moon than the earth. There are two sublayers at a minimum. It has been discovered that the planet has a big liquid core.

The leader of the mission at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory explained that they have had the ability to map the inside of the planet for the first time ever.

NASA’s Lori Glaze

The lander is equipped with a robotic arm that was meant to install the heat probe and seismometer. It was also used to clear some dust off the panels at one point. The ground team will place the robotic arm into the retirement position this month for the last time.

Director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division, Lori Glaze, explained that the device has turned their knowledge of the inside of rocky planets and plan for missions in the future. She also said that they can apply what they have learned about the planet’s inside structure to Venus, Earth, the Moon, and other rocky planets in different solar systems.

Experts will continue studying the data from the device for years. As the planet’s history is encrypted in the inside layers, the discoveries will aid researchers to come back to their models that show how rocky planets get created and show the study of worlds that may hold life outside of the solar system.

Written by Marrissa Kay


Engadget: NASA will soon bid farewell to its Mars InSight lander; by Mariella Moon
Tech Investor News: NASA will soon bid farewell to its Mars InSight lander
Business Insider: NASA expects Mars lander to run out of power, ending InSight’s historic mission; by Morgan McFall-Johnsen

Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Alastair Rae’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inline Image Courtesy of NASA Kennedy’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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