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NASA worry: Could one of its robots on Mars be out of service?

NASA worry: Could one of its robots on Mars be out of service?

NASA’s Insight robot has arrived at Mars to study its interior motions (REUTERS/NASA/JPL)

NASA’s Mars Insight probe is gradually losing power and will likely end science operations later this summer.. The team that works The InSight spacecraft expects the probe to shut down in December, The conclusion of a mission that has so far detected more than 1,300 earthquakes or Martian earthquakes Latest, size 5 which happened on May 4, 2022.

Information collected from those earthquakes allowed scientists to measure the depth and formation of The crust, mantle, and core of Mars. Next to, insight (Short for Inland Exploration through Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Thermal Transport) Record crucial meteorological data and study the remnants of Mars’ ancient magnetic field.InSight has transformed our understanding of the interior of rocky planets and laid the foundation for future missions.. “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,” said Laurie Gleese, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division.

Illustration of an InSight module with a seismometer and drill in the foreground (NASA/JPL)
Illustration of an InSight module with a seismometer and drill in the foreground (NASA/JPL)

Insight landed on Mars on November 26, 2018. It was outfitted with a pair of solar panels, each about 2.2 meters wide, and was designed to meet the main science goals of the mission in its first year on the surface of Mars (almost two years on Earth). After its realization, the spacecraft was now on an extended mission, and its solar panels were producing less energy as it continued to collect dust.

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Due to the low power, the team will soon put the robotic arm of the vehicle into a resting position (called “retreat mode”) for the last time later this month. Originally intended to deploy a seismometer and heat probe, the arm played an unexpected role in the mission: in addition to being used to aid Buried heat probe After the sticky Martian soil posed challenges to the rover, the team used the arm in a Innovative way to remove dust Solar Panels. As a result, the seismometer was able to operate more frequently than it otherwise would, Which led to new discoveries.

NASA's Insight instruments on the surface of Mars (Reuters)
NASA’s Insight instruments on the surface of Mars (Reuters)

When Insight landed, the solar panels produced about 5,000 watts per hour each Martian, or Martian, day, enough to power an electric furnace for an hour and 40 minutes. Now, they produce nearly 500 watt-hours per day, which is enough to power the same electric furnace for just 10 minutes. Also, seasonal changes have begun at Elysium Planitia, InSight’s site on Mars. Over the next few months, there will be more dust in the air, reducing sunlight and energy to the lander. And while previous efforts have removed some dust, the mission will need a stronger dust-cleaning event, such as a “dust demon” (a passing tornado), to reverse the current trend.

We expected to clean up dust as we’ve seen several times with the Spirit and Opportunity rover.said Bruce Banerdt, InSight principal investigator at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, who is leading the mission. “It’s still possible, but the energy is low enough that our focus is on making the most of the science we can still collect,” he added.

The seismograph of the InSight mission placed on the surface of Mars (NASA)
The seismograph of the InSight mission placed on the surface of Mars (NASA)

If only 25% of the InSight panels were blown away by wind, the probe would gain about 1,000 watt-hours per sun, enough to continue collecting scientific data.. However, at the current rate of energy decline, InSight’s non-seismic instruments are rarely operational after the end of May. Energy is prioritized for the lander’s seismometer, which will operate at specific times of the day, such as at night, when the winds are low and earthquakes are easier to hear on the seismometer. The seismometer is expected to be turned off by late summer, concluding the scientific phase of the mission.

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At this point, the probe will still have enough power to operate, take occasional photos, and communicate with Earth. But the team hopes that around December the power will be low enough that InSight will stop responding one day.

A probe studying Mars' internal heat aboard NASA's InSight lander has finished its mission, failing to get the friction it needs to drill.  (NASA/JPL-CALTECH)
A probe studying Mars’ internal heat aboard NASA’s InSight lander has finished its mission, failing to get the friction it needs to drill. (NASA/JPL-CALTECH)

More about the mission

The The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) manages the InSight program of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. InSight is part of NASA’s Discovery Program, which is managed by the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Denver’s Lockheed Martin Space built the InSight spacecraft, including the cruiser stage and lander, and supports the mission’s spacecraft operations.

Several European partners, including the French National Center for Space Studies (CNES) and the German Aerospace Center (DLR), support the InSight mission.. The National Center for Space Studies has provided the Inner Structure Seismic Experiment (SEIS) instrument to NASA, with the principal investigator of the IPGP (Institut de Physiques de la Physique in the World in Paris).

Important contributions to the Common Environmental Information System came from the IPGP; Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Germany; Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) in Switzerland; Imperial College London and Oxford University in the UK; and JPL. The DLR provided the Heat Flow Instrument and Physical Characteristics Kit (HP3), with significant contributions from the Space Research Center (CBK) of the Polish Academy of Sciences and Astronika in Poland. The Center for Astrobiology (CAB) in Spain has fitted the temperature and wind sensors.

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