Science

The ground-breaking Mars landing may have just sent home one last stunning image

The ground-breaking Mars landing may have just sent home one last stunning image

The ground-breaking Mars landing may have just sent home one last stunning image

It’s almost time to say goodbye to another Martian friend. Many missions to the Red Planet have gone silent for the last time, some after many years of successful data collection and some after a short free fall like a fireball. We’re about to add another Mars explorer to that ever-growing list – InSight maybe sent your final picture home.

The picture itself is similar to hundreds of others sent back to Earth by the probe over the past four years. In the center of the picture is the vessel’s seismometer, which focused on collecting data on Marcus whose data have been used in dozens of papers. However, in this image it is noticeably covered in the fine red dust that covers everything on the Red Planet.

Here is the picture, taken on November 6, 2022:

That dust also covers InSight’s power source. Its solar panels are increasingly covered and are therefore able to provide less and less energy to the lander itself. Unfortunately, InSight also had the good fortune or bad luck of being in an area of ​​general lull for Martian dust devils. While the instruments themselves might be difficult to handle while they’re happening, dust devils also do a great job of cleaning dust-covered solar panels.

Another factor in the growing dust accumulation was a design decision the InSight team made at the start of the project. Various methods can help remove dust from solar panels. Compressed air and car-like wiper blades are two of the most common. But InSight’s engineers chose not to include such a system in their probe.

In another recent image, InSight uses its robotic arms to scrape away some of the regolith surrounding it.Credits – NASA / JPL-Caltech

Making these decisions is one of the hardest parts of engineering. Dust removal systems add weight and therefore cost more money, both in their design and to get to Mars. Startup costs still take up a significant amount of the project budget, so each system is scrutinized to see if it’s really necessary. In the case of the Insight, the team determined that the dust removal system was not.

There was one key factor that led to that decision — the relatively short expected duration of the Insight mission as a whole. It is planned to last only one Earth year. It ended up taking four.

What’s next for InSight

JPL video discussing InSight’s achievements. Credit – NASA JPL YouTube Channel

Even without the dust removal system, the mission exceeded its original expectations. And Insight has cemented its position as one of the most prolific Mars probes to date. His data was the basis for dozens of papers, and we understood everything from the presence (or therefore lack) of liquid water around the lander to finding some magma in the same area.

Such data would make any science team proud, and those involved in Insight had plenty of time to see the end coming. UT first reported the power problems back in May. But while it has continued to make progress for the past six months, it may soon be time to finally say goodbye to exploring the interior with the Seismic Survey, Geodesy and Heat Transfer missions. He will not be forgotten, and may even come back to life one day when people finally set foot on a landscape that only he has ever seen.

This article was originally published on The universe today by Andy Tomaswick. Read it original article here.



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