After more than four years of collecting unique science on Mars, NASA has ended its NASA InSight mission. The lander lost contact with the mission controllers at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California.
The controller team attempted to contact the lander twice, but received no response. That’s why they concluded: The spacecraft’s solar-powered batteries were dead.
NASA has mentioned that before “The spacecraft’s power generation continues to decline as the windblown dust on the solar arrays thickens, so the team has taken steps to continue using what energy is left for as long as possible. The end is expected to come in the coming weeks.”
InSight stands for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport. The mission aims to study the deep interior of Mars. The lander data has revealed information about the layers that make up the Martian interior, as well as the weather in this region of Mars and many earthquakes.
The incredibly sensitive seismometer, daily monitoring by the French space agency Center National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES) and ETH Zurich’s Marsquake Service all detected 1,319 marsquakes, including earthquakes caused by meteoroid impacts, the largest of which uncovered boulders. large pieces of ice at the end of last year.
Scientists can examine the planet’s crust, mantle and core using information from the seismometer and information from such impacts, which help them determine the age of the planet’s surface.
Philippe Lognonné of Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris, principal investigator of InSight’s seismometer, said: “With InSight, seismology was the focus of a mission beyond Earth for the first time since the Apollo missions, when astronauts brought seismometers to the moon. We have done pioneering work and our science team can be proud of everything we have learned along the way.”
Challenges are part of every Mars mission, and InSight was no exception. The lander had a self-hammering spike, dubbed “the mole,” designed to dig 16 feet (5 meters) through the surface. It also had a sensor-loaded tether that monitored the planet’s temperature so scientists could determine how much energy was left after Mars formed.
The mole struggled to get a grip on the unusually clumpy ground around InSight because it was made for the loose, sandy soil it encountered on previous missions. The device, provided by the German Aerospace Center (DLR), eventually buried its 16-inch (40-centimeter) probe near the surface while collecting important information about the thermal and physical characteristics of Martian soil. This is beneficial for future robotic or human missions attempting to dig underground.
The mission effectively buried the mole thanks to the creative use of the lander’s robotic arm by JPL and DLR engineers. The arm and its small shovel were designed primarily to place scientific instruments on the surface of Mars. But when the power ran low, they also helped clear dust from InSight’s solar panels. Counterintuitively, it was discovered by the mission that on windy days they could sprinkle dirt from the shovel onto the panels, allowing the falling grains to gently sweep the dust off the surfaces.
JPL’s Bruce Banerdt, the mission’s principal investigator, said: “We’ve considered InSight our friend and colleague on Mars for the past four years, so it’s hard to say goodbye. But it has earned its well-deserved retirement.”
Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, said: “I’ve seen the launch and landing of this mission, and while it’s always sad to say goodbye to a spacecraft, the fascinating science InSight has performed is cause for celebration. The seismic data alone from this Discovery Program mission provides great insights not only into Mars, but other rocky bodies, including Earth.
The agency will continue to listen for a signal from the lander, just in case, but it is considered unlikely at this time. The last time InSight communicated with Earth was on December 15.