The stationary spacecraft captured the image on April 24 with its robotic arm, which will soon be placed in its final resting position called “retirement mode” this month. In order to take a selfie, the arm would have to move several times, and that wouldn’t be possible anymore.
Because of dwindling energy supplies, the mission will cease scientific work by the end of late summer. He’s been revealing the mysterious interior of Mars since its landing in November 2018.
InSight’s solar panels are increasingly covered in red Martian dust, despite creative efforts By the mission team on the ground. This accumulation It will only get worse as Mars now enters winter, when more dust will rise into the atmosphere.
These floating particles reduce sunlight needed to charge the solar panels powering InSight, which is currently on an extended mission that was expected to last through December. The mission achieved its primary goals after its first two years on the surface of Mars.
The final selfie shows the lander covered in much more dust than in previous selfies in December 2018 and April 2019.
The lander entered safe mode on May 7, when its power levels dropped, causing it to stop all but essential functions. The team anticipates that this can happen more frequently In the future with increased dust levels.
The stationary lander is only able to collect about a tenth of its available power supply after landing on Mars in November 2018. When InSight first landed, it could produce about 5,000 watt-hours per day on Mars, about what it used to take to run Electric oven for 1 hour and 40 minutes.
Now, the probe produces 500 watts per day, which is enough to power an electric furnace for only 10 minutes. If 25% of the solar panels are cleaned, InSight will see a sufficient increase in energy for its continuation. The spacecraft has seen many dust demons, or whirlwinds, but None of them were close enough to remove the solar panels.
“We were hoping to clean up dust like we’ve seen happen multiple times for the Spirit and Opportunity spacecraft,” said Bruce Banerdt, InSight principal investigator at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in a statement. “It’s still possible, but the power is low enough that our focus is on making the most of the science we can still collect.”
By the end of the summer, the team will turn off the seismometer, terminate scientific operations, and monitor energy levels remaining on the probe. At the end of the year, the InSight mission will end.
However, the InSight team will continue to listen to any potential communication from the spacecraft and determine if it can be turned on again.
“Even as we near the end of our mission, Mars still gives us some really amazing things to see,” Banerdt said.
The constant flow of data to scientists on Earth from InSight will stop when solar cells can’t generate enough power. But researchers will study the discoveries InSight has made for decades to come in order to learn as much as possible about our mysterious planetary neighbor.
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