NASA retires InSight lander after four years on Mars

NASA said goodbye on Wednesday to the InSight lander that has spent four years probing Mars’ interior.

The US space agency said that mission control was unable to contact the spacecraft for two consecutive attempts, leading to the conclusion that its solar-powered batteries have run out.

“InSight may be retiring, but its legacy and discoveries from deep inside Mars will live on,” NASA said.

The space agency said it would continue to listen for a signal from the lander, which last communicated with Earth a week ago, but it’s considered unlikely after months of Martian dust accumulated on its two solar arrays, sapping their power.

“We’ve thought of InSight as our friend and colleague on Mars for the past four years, so it’s hard to say goodbye,” said Bruce Banerdt, the mission’s principal investigator at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. “But he’s earned his well-deserved retirement.”

InSight was one of four missions currently to the Red Planet, along with the US rovers Perseverance and Curiosity and China’s Zhurong.

He arrived on Mars in November 2018 to study the planet’s interior, and his seismometer, made in France, paved the way for major advances.

The seismic waves, which vary according to the materials they pass through, offer a picture of the planet’s interior.

For example, scientists have been able to confirm that Mars’ core is liquid and to determine the thickness of the Martian crust, which is less dense than previously thought and probably consists of three layers.

The lander provided details about the weather on Mars and many seismic activities.

Its highly sensitive seismometer detected 1,319 earthquakes, some caused by meteoroid impacts.

“With InSight, seismology was the focus of a mission beyond Earth for the first time since the Apollo missions, when astronauts carried seismometers to the moon,” said Philippe Lognonne of the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris. “We have opened new horizons”.

NASA managed to extend the lander’s mission earlier this year by using its robotic arm and a small dustpan to gently remove dust from solar panels.

However, not all of InSight’s science operations have gone well, such as when a spike nicknamed “the mole” had difficulty digging below the surface to measure the planet’s temperature due to the composition of the soil in which the robot landed.

The probe, provided by the German Aerospace Center, was eventually buried slightly below the surface and provided valuable data on the physical and thermal properties of the Martian soil, NASA said.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *