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. To take a selfie, the arm has to move several times, and that won’t be possible anymore.
Due to dwindling energy supplies, the mission will stop scientific work until the end of 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 ground mission team. This accumulation It will only get worse as Mars enters winter, when more dust rises 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 supposed to run through December. The mission achieved its primary goals after its first two years on the surface of Mars.
The final selfie shows the probe covered in much more dust than previous selfies in December 2018 and April 2019.
The lander entered safe mode on May 7, when its capacity levels decreased, causing all but essential jobs to close. The team anticipates that this can happen more often In the future with increased dust levels.
The stationary probe can only collect about a tenth of its available power supply after it touches down on Mars in November 2018. When InSight first landed, it could produce about 5,000 watt-hours per day on Mars, roughly what it took to get to Mars . Turn on the electric oven for an hour and 40 minutes.
Now the probe produces 500 watts per day, which is enough to operate an electric oven 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 a lot of dust demons, or vortices, but None of them were close enough to remove the solar panels.
“We were hoping for dust removal as we’ve seen it happen multiple times for the Spirit and Opportunity spacecraft,” Bruce Banerdt, InSight principal investigator at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said 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 shut down the seismometer, finish scientific operations, and monitor the probe’s remaining energy levels. 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 restarted.
“Even as we near the end of our mission, Mars still gives us some really amazing things to see,” Bannerdt said.
The constant flow of data from InSight to scientists on Earth will stop when solar cells can’t generate enough power. But researchers will study the discoveries InSight has made over the next few decades to learn as much as possible about our mysterious planetary neighbor.
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