NASA bids sad farewell to Mars robot after years of major discoveries on the red planet

NASA has lost contact with its InSight robot after four years on the red planet

NASA’s InSight robot has died after more than four years of work on Mars.

InSight was a stationary robot designed to record the internal machinations of the red planet and recorded various “Marsquakes,” including a magnitude-four earthquake on Christmas Eve last year when a 39-foot-wide meteorite slammed into the other side of the planet.

The machine last made contact with Earth on December 15th. It failed to make contact on both December 18 and 21, meeting NASA’s criteria for declaring the mission over.

The lander was stationary, unlike the rovers of Opportunity and Perseverance, for example, and was powered by solar panels.

However, the two 7-foot-wide panels were constantly covered in the planet’s reddish dust and became increasingly inefficient. They now generate insufficient energy for the machine to operate.

Dr Daniel Brown, an associate professor of astronomy at Nottingham Trent University, told The Telegraph that recently solar panels were creating just a fifth of the energy produced by the $830m mission when it landed in May 2018.

NASA said in a statement it would continue to look for signs of life from InSight, but that this is “unlikely”.

“While saying goodbye to a spaceship is always sad, the fascinating science conducted by InSight is cause for celebration,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.

“InSight more than lives up to its name,” added Laurie Leshin, director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

“Yes, it’s sad to say goodbye, but the InSight legacy will live on, informing and inspiring.”

Bruce Banerdt, principal investigator on the InSight mission, said the machine was regarded “like a friend and colleague,” adding, “It’s hard to say goodbye, but she’s well deserved retirement.”

Dr Brown said the data collected by InSight has already yielded important results and will likely continue to shed light on how Mars and other parts of the Solar System came to be.

“Although it was a lander and did not roam the surface of Mars, its substantial exploration of the seismic activity within it has helped researchers better understand Mars’ interior,” he told The Telegraph.

“Never before have we been able to measure the seismic activity of Mars in such detail and even link it to meteor strikes. This work shed light on the three main layers of Mars: crust, mantle and core.

“It also identified water ice buried underground, which was much closer to the equator than expected. Other aspects included tracking Mars’ ancient magnetic field and its complex weather patterns.

“InSight shows how much we can achieve if we just stand still and listen. An amazing addition to our roving and flying exploration of Mars.”

Opportunity passed away in 2019 after a 14-year career. InSight survived NASA’s Perseverance and Curiosity rovers.

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