This image may be the last to be sent by NASA’s Mars InSight spacecraft.
After four years on Mars, the robotic lander is now powering down after a successful mission.
InSight’s solar panels have been covered in thick windblown dust. NASAexpecting to lose touch with the probe soon.
The American space agency tweeted the news, writing: “My power is really low, so I may have to send this last image.”
“Don’t worry, I am here to help you. My time here was both productive and peaceful.
“If I am able to keep talking with my mission team, then I will. But I’ll be signing out here soon. Thank you for being here with me.
NASA announced the PS630m InSight Project 10 years ago, as a follow up to its successful Curiosity Rover.
InSight’s mission was to find out how Mars formed. This was in order to give scientists a better understanding about how rocks bodies such as Earth were made.
Before it could descend to the surface, the spacecraft first had to make the 300-million-mile journey to Mars.
Only 40% of the missions to the red planet made it through the thin atmosphere.
InSight was slowed by a combination of heatshields, retrorockets, and parachutes in six minutes. This allowed it to land on Elysium Planitia (a flat plain north of Curiosity’s location).
After the craft had unfurled, it rammed a temperature probe into the surface for measuring the heat coming from the planet’s center.
NASA’s Orion spacecraft returns to Earth following a successful mission to the moon
NASA predicts that astronauts will be “living and working on moon” within a decade.
InSight’s earthquake monitor picked up a faint rumbling five months after landing. NASA scientists named it “Marsquake” because they concluded it was a quake from within the planet.
InSight’s greatest accomplishment was establishing that the red Planet is indeed seismically active. It recorded more than 1,300 marquakes.
NASA stated that the recording launched a new field of research called “Martian seismology”, which NASA believes could help discover more about how rocky planets formed.
It also measured seismic waves from meteorite impacts. This revealed the thickness of the planet’s outer layer, its density and size, and the structure of its inner core.
There was still time to have some fun. It was famous for taking the first “selfie” on Mars using a camera attached at its robotic arm to beam it a photo.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Los Angeles will continue listening for signals from the lander.
Experts say it is unlikely that InSight will be heard from again.
On 15 December, the three-legged, stationary probe communicated last with Earth.
InSight has revolutionized our understanding of the solar systems
InSight sat where flashy, wheeled Mars rovers would not go. InSight, the robot geologist, never ventured onto Mars’ surface to make exciting discoveries. As the first mission to explore the interior of another planet, its job was to listen and take action. It did.
InSight has recorded over 1300 “marsquakes” during its four-year existence on Mars. Each tremor is an ultrasound scan of the planet’s interior. InSight revealed that Mars’ liquid metal core is larger than Earth’s. There were key differences in the molten rock mantle. These discoveries explain why Mars isn’t volcanic even though it was once during its 4.5 billion year history. It also lost its magnetic field.
The Christmas Eve 2012 was the most significant breakthrough for the patient and lonely listener. InSight’s seismometer detected what was thought to be a major marquake at the time.
Only the next year, scientists using a robotic mission called Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter discovered a new impact crater at the surface of the red planet. InSight “heard” a large meteorite smashing into Mars’ surface. Professor Tom Pike, an InSight scientist from Imperial College London, said that “everything clicked” after the discovery.
They were able, using the precise cause of the tremor and its location, to adjust their measurements in a way that was not possible by listening to mysterious rumbles coming from Mars. This was just one of many InSight impacts that have greatly improved the quality and quantity of science they deliver. It almost didn’t happen. The original mission of the probe lasted just two years.
Prof. Pike says, “We were very fortunate.” It was more than the mission’s expected lifespan. Each of these events has added another dimension to our information. We haven’t had enough data in the last few months to be able to build a complete picture of Mars’s activities. We’ll continue to work on this data.
A storm could blow the dust off InSight’s solar panels, giving it a new lease on life. The probe that died will eventually be buried by the Earth it was sent to study. The data it collected during its brief scientific life will still be studied and used to improve our understanding of the solar systems.