July 23, 2024

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Before it loses power due to dust, NASA’s InSight Mars Lander shares one last selfie

NASA has released one final selfie shot by the InSight Mars lander, which is set to be retired soon owing to dirty solar panels.

The lander is entirely covered in dust in the final selfie, which was taken on April 24.

In a tweet, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which oversees InSight, described it as “a dusty self-portrait.”

“On April 24, @NASAInSight snapped what is likely to be its final selfie,” it continued.

The post also included a GIF of the spacecraft’s initial selfie, which was shot in December 2018, and its most recent photo, “where it’s buried in Martian dust.”

Last Thursday, NASA announced that InSight is steadily losing power and that “science operations are expected to conclude later this summer.”

The interior exploration mission InSight (short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy, and Heat Transport), which landed on Mars on November 26, 2018, was designed to last roughly two Earth years. The mission was later extended, and as the solar panel’s accumulated dust, they began to produce less electricity.

According to NASA, the lander’s solar panels, which are each about 2.2 metres wide, are producing roughly one-tenth of the lander’s landing capability of 5,000 watt-hours.

Furthermore, there will be more dust in the air during the next three months, lowering sunlight and the lander’s energy. The lander’s seismometer will be given top priority, as it will only operate during certain times of day, including at night, when winds are low and marsquakes are easier for the seismometer to “hear.”

The seismometer will be turned off before the end of the summer, bringing the mission’s science phase to a close.

The lender will still have enough power to operate at that moment, taking photos and communicating with Earth. However, the team anticipates that “power will be low enough that one day InSight will simply stop responding” around December.

The mission team will soon put the lander’s robotic arm in its resting posture (known as the “retirement pose”) for the last time this month with its final selfie.