Death throes on Mars: Martian landers without power
The Marslander Insight is running out of power. Only a miracle can save Insight. Only recently he recorded another monster earthquake.
This photo dated 24 April 24 2022 shows Insight’s solar panels completely covered in dust. NASA expects Insight to cease operations altogether in December 2022.
There is a death row inmate on Mars: The Marslander Insight. The important research instrument will soon be out of service forever, as NASA reports. Because the Marslander Insight, which landed on Mars on November 26th, 2018, can hardly produce any electricity. Because its solar panels are thickly covered with dust. From around 5000 watt hours at the beginning, electricity production has now fallen to just 500 watt hours.
For the next few months, NASA expects even more dust and less solar radiation, then the power supply of Insight and the associated heating should collapse completely. Accordingly, Insight must cease its exploration of the Red Planet forever. The only saving grace would be a strong storm blowing the dust off the solar panels. This small glimmer of hope remains for the NASA scientists.
Insight has been struggling with the dust problem and the resulting limited power generation for some time. You can read more about this and the seismic measurements in: Strongest earthquakes on Mars – measurement threatened by power shortage.
Monster quakes on Mars
Just a few days ago, Insight achieved another spectacular measurement. Because there was a violent earthquake on Mars, which Insight recorded with its sensors. It was a magnitude 5, so it was very, very strong; NASA speaks of a monster earthquake.
Recording earthquakes was one of Insight’s main tasks, which, unlike the Mars rover Perserverance, is always stationary and does not move around on Mars; Overall, Insight recorded over 1,300 earthquakes. That is why NASA wants to use all of the remaining residual flow to operate the seismometer. From June 2022, the other Insight measuring instruments will only be switched on in exceptional cases.
As my power levels diminish due to dust on my solar panels, my team has set my retirement plans in motion. Plans call for a gradual shutdown of instruments, including resting my arm in a “retirement pose.”
Read more: https://t.co/eATDXbOlx2 pic.twitter.com/OsbsufAvmi
— NASA InSight (@NASAInSight) May 17, 2022
Insight’s robotic arm will also be placed in a resting position at the end of May 2022. At the end of the summer, however, NASA also wants to switch off the seismometer. This ends the scientific use of Insight. Insight should then continue to take photos of the surface of Mars and send them to Earth. But in December 2022 even that should no longer be possible and Insight will then be effectively dead.
You can follow Insight’s death throes via their Twitter channel here.
Another death row inmate
Not only is the Mars lander Insight threatened with the end, the Mars helicopter Ingenuity, which landed on Mars together with the Mars rover Perservance, is also threatened in its existence. Also due to lack of electricity. Read more here: Mars helicopter Ingenuity fights for survival.
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