On Sunday, (December 18), NASA lost contact with its Mars Insight Lander after the space probe ignored in responding to communications from Earth. After the InSight lander touched down on Mars in 2018, it has been studying quakes on Mars. However, as Mars dust continues to cover its solar arrays, the lander began to suffer from power loss issues as the dust particles limited the amount of sunlight reaching the panels.
Due to its constant loss of power, NASA knew that the days of InSight lander were coming to an end. Hence, the space agency began to make plans to retire the spacecraft before the end of 2022. But is NASA giving up on the InSight Lander? Continue reading to find out.
Why NASA May Give up on InSight Lander Soon
Earlier this year, NASA announced its plan to retire the insight lander before the end of the year. However, the space agency has remained hopeful about continuing operations on Mars’ surface with the space probe for an extended period. However, NASA recently released a statement describing the current challenge facing the InSight Lander on Mars.
“The lander’s power has been declining for months, as expected, and it’s assumed InSight may have reached its end of operations,” NASA wrote in a statement. “It’s unknown what prompted the change in its energy; the last time the mission contacted the spacecraft was on Dec. 15, 2022.”
On December 19, NASA shared an update on Twitter describing what might be the last picture of the InSight lander on Mars.
“My power’s really low, so this may be the last image I can send,” NASA wrote on Twitter, “Don’t worry about me though: my time here has been both productive and serene. If I can keep talking to my mission team, I will – but I’ll be signing off here soon. Thanks for staying with me.”
The image showed a view of the Martian horizon with the robotic arm, probe’s seismometer, and other gear in view. However, NASA reportedly lost contact with the lander a day after sharing this last photo from the Mars lander. Since NASA launched the InSight Lander in Mar 2018, NASA’s team of experts at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena California has been seeing to the success of the mission.
How NASA’s Insight Lander has performed on Mars
The spacecraft landed on Mars on November 2018 and commenced its two years mission to study the interior of Mars using its seismometer and heat probe. The heat probe which was planned to drill a few meters beneath the Martian surface never succeeded in reaching its targeted depth. However, the seismometer marveled scientists as it detected over 1,300 marsquakes.
After the Insight Lander reached its mission timeline in November 2020, NASA realized that the spacecraft is still active enough to go beyond its mission timeline. Hence, the InSight Lander mission was extended until December 2022. Upon ultimate mission extension, the $814 million Mars mission continued to perform exceptionally well to meet its mission requirement.
In fact, a team of NASA scientists announced that the lander detected its strongest marsquake last week. However, the recent loss of power due to dust particles has made the lander operate with lower power efficiency. As of November 2022, the Lander was operating on mars with about 20% of the power it had landed on Mars in November 2018. This implies that the lander has lost 80% of its generating power due to dust particles.
But as of December 2022, it appears as if the spacecraft has lost 100% of its generating power. But NASA is not giving up on the lander. In fact during the Monday update, NASA announced. “The mission will continue to try and contact InSight.”
Even though the lander is still operating on Mars for an extended mission, NASA still wants to obtain more data from its Mars space probe. Hence, the American space agency is going the extra milestone to resurrect its lander and continue receiving data.
But if no further signal is received from the Lander, NASA will focus more on its future missions that will eventually pave a way for a crewed mission to the red planet. What do you think about the milestone attained by the InSight Lander?