Update: Shortly after this article was published, NASA confirmed that it was Unable to contact the Mars Insight lander (Opens in a new tab) on two successive attempts, ending the four-year mission on the planet’s surface.
Twilight approaches NASA’s Mars lander InSight – a robotic seismology laboratory that has been studying the inner workings of the Red Planet since November 2018.
On Tuesday (December 20), NASA announced in a statment (Opens in a new tab) InSight failed to respond to routine communications from Earth. This is a worrying, though unsurprising, indication that InSight may finally be dead after months of low power supplies.
“My strength is very weak, so this may be the last picture I can send,” said the official InSight Twitter account (Opens in a new tab) Tweet on Dec. 19 with a selfie covered in dust. “Don’t worry about me though: My time here has been productive and uneventful. If I can keep talking to my mission team, I will—but I’m leaving here soon. Thanks for staying with me.”
The solar panels that InSight relies on for power have been continually exposed to dust and grime over the past four years, gradually reducing the available power. Things were so dire this summer that NASA turned off all of InSight’s science instruments except for the seismometer, so the faltering rover could focus on its primary mission goal — listening for Martian earthquakes in order to study the Martian interior — for as long as possible.
NASA will officially declare the InSight mission over if the probe fails to respond for a second consecutive communication session. Then, the operations team of 25 to 30 people will finish the job by making sure that four years of InSight data is properly stored and made readily available for researchers around the world to use.
Insight landed on Mars’ Elysium Planitia — a flat, volcanically active plain straddling the Martian equator — on November 26, 2018. Using a robotic arm, the rover deployed a small seismometer (a device used to measure seismic waves generated by earthquakes and their effects) over the plain, then covered it With a shield from heat and wind in the form of a dome. Since then, InSight has detected more than 1,300 Martian earthquakes—one of the largest Massive earthquake with a magnitude of 4.7 on May 4, 2022.
Studying this seismic data has really helped scientists Map the mysterious interior of MarsDiscover The largest meteor impact ever recorded In the solar system it was found that volcanic activity on the red planet can occur It leads to a hidden source of liquid water.
With up to four years of data available, scientists around the world will likely use InSight’s insights to unlock the mysteries of Mars for many years to come. Goodbye, sweet robot.