Friday, July 1

The InSight Mars lander will soon succumb to dust | Digital Trends Spanish


the lander insight NASA is ready to end operations in Mars after four years of service.

At a special meeting of key InSight mission personnel on Tuesday, May 17, it was confirmed that increasing amounts of dust on the lander’s two 7-foot-wide solar arrays meant it would likely cease science operations later this year. summer, before completely losing power in December.

Packed with an array of scientific instruments, InSight has detected more than 1,300 marsquakes, including a recent one measured as the largest earthquake ever detected on another planet, and has also located earthquake-prone regions of the Red Planet. Overall, the mission has been a great success, with the lander achieving its primary objectives within its first two years of deployment.

“InSight has transformed our understanding of the interiors of rocky planets and has set the stage for future missions,” said Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division. “We can apply what we’ve learned about the internal structure of Mars to Earth, the Moon, Venus, and even rocky planets in other solar systems.”

dust problem

InSight has been gradually losing power due to a buildup of dust on its solar panels that has gradually blocked out sunlight. When it arrived on Mars in 2018, the panels produced around 5,000 watt-hours each Martian day (a touch longer than an Earth day), but today they are producing around 500 watt-hours per Martian day. Offering a bit of context, NASA says these kinds of energy levels would power an electric oven for 100 minutes and 10 minutes, respectively.

The worsening situation means the team is now preparing to bring the lander’s robotic arm into its rest position, known as the “retreat posture,” later this month.

It’s worth noting that the arm played a key role in prolonging the lander’s mission, as the team deployed it to clean dust off the panels early in the mission. The idea, which came about when the team first realized dust was causing InSight to lose power, involved scooping up Martian soil and dumping it onto the panels. Windy conditions then blew the ground away, taking some of the dust with it. It wasn’t a perfect solution, but it worked. For a while, anyway.

The only way InSight can be saved now is for stronger winds, in the form of a Martian whirlwind, to blow the dust off the solar panels.

“We have been waiting for a [evento] of dust cleaning as we saw the Spirit and Opportunity rovers happen several times,” said mission member Bruce Banerdt. “That’s still possible, but the energy is low enough that our focus is to make the most of the science we can still collect.”

NASA said that if a quarter of InSight’s panels were cleaned of dust, the lander would gain about 1,000 watt-hours per Martian day, enough to enable further scientific work.

For now, the lander’s power is being prioritized for its seismometer, which runs at night when winds are low, giving it the best chance of detecting marsquakes.

As it is, the team expects the seismometer to stop working in the next few months, leaving InSight with just enough power to take an occasional photo and communicate with Earth before finally going silent in December.

The loss of InSight will leave NASA with three science missions on the surface of Mars: the Perseverance and Curiosity rovers, and the Ingenuity helicopter.

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