NASA’s Mars InSight mission is dead. The internet cries.


Saying goodbye is never easy, even when it’s headed for a 794-pound Martian lander that no human has seen directly since 2018. Still, the internet is awash with obituaries for NASA’s InSight lander, the first spacecraft to document an earthquake , as he last signed. A NASA press release on Wednesday officially marked the end of the InSight mission, even as the lander’s swansong began days earlier.

On Monday, the official InSight mission Twitter account posted a farewell message that could only be described as “my battery is dead and it’s getting dark.”

The InSight mission team had known the end was… near (pun not easy) for several months. Like its Opportunity predecessor, Martian dust covered InSight’s solar arrays and led to its demise: In May, the Associated Press reported that InSight was generating only 10 percent of the energy it had been capable of generating one time.

While it may never realize its full potential, InSight is moving away from this mortal coil having unquestionably added volumes to our understanding of Mars. Its seismometer has measured more than 1,300 earthquakes, helping researchers understand the phenomena and infer the size and content of Mars’ layers. But another aspect of the lander — a thermal probe called “the mole” designed to burrow several feet below the Martian surface — came up short, making it just inches before being hampered by clumping terrain.

“InSight more than lives up to its name,” Laurie Leshin, director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in the press release. “Yes, it’s sad to say goodbye, but the InSight legacy will live on, informing and inspiring.”

NASA’s InSight lander takes one last dusty selfie before it shuts down for good

According to NASA, the determination that the mission is officially over – and, by extension, the declaration that the lander is in “dead bus” state, the engineering equivalent of calling something “clinically dead” – was made once the lander lost two communication sessions in a row with a spacecraft orbiting Mars. InSight’s last communication with Earth occurred on December 15th. NASA’s international Deep Space Network will continue to listen for any signs of activity from InSight, “just in case,” although it’s unlikely to hear from them.

Does that make you weirdly emotional? You are not alone. Best wishes poured into from a thousand angles Internet and NASA’s website allows you to commemorate InSight’s short but eventful life by sending InSight a digital postcard featuring some of its most iconic images. Bruce Banerdt, a geophysics researcher at JPL who served as the mission’s principal investigator, called InSight a “friend and colleague” who has “earned his well-deserved retirement.”

Rest assured, InSight.

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