NASA is retiring the Mars InSight mission after losing contact

As expected, NASA’s Mars InSight probe has run out of power, leaving the space agency with no alternative but to finish the mission.

Mission controllers at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California were unable to contact the lander after two consecutive attempts, leading them to conclude the spacecraft’s solar-powered batteries are out of power — state engineers refer to a ‘dead bus’, NASA’s end-of-mission announcement reads.

The space agency will continue to try to contact InSight, just in case, but hasn’t heard from her since December 15th. The chances of resuming landings are small.

And it’s getting smaller every day because the cause of its problems — fine dust coating its solar panels and reducing their efficiency, thus depriving its batteries of power — won’t go away.

Even the Martian winds don’t help keep the panels clean. InSight managers devised a cunning tactic to improve the situation: using the lander’s robot arm to pick up soil and gravel and scatter them on the panels so that their descent provides a bit of a clean-up action.

The Martian wind isn’t completely useless

The Martian winds couldn’t keep InSight clean, but just three days before the magazine shut down InSight natural astronomy He published an article arguing the Martian winds We are Powerful enough to power the wind turbines that would power the future human presence on the Red Planet.

The robot arm has also been adapted to deal with another problem InSight encountered.

The stellar lander was a “mole,” a spike designed to hammer itself five meters deep into the Marianne soil to help InSight understand the planet’s interior.

“Designed for the loose, sandy soil seen on other missions, Mole could not gain traction in the unexpectedly lumpy soil around InSight,” says the agency’s farewell website. “The mole eventually buried its 16-inch (40 cm) probe just below the surface.” The InSight arm helped bury the mole to this depth.

NASA’s farewell post includes tributes to InSight, the team that built and operates it, and the science the probe has done.

“With InSight, seismology has been the focus of an extraterrestrial mission for the first time since the Apollo missions, when astronauts brought seismometers to the moon,” said Philippe Lejeune of the Institute of Physics of the World in Paris, principal investigator for InSight’s seismometer. “We’ve broken new ground, and our science team can be proud of all that we’ve learned along the way.”

“InSight lives up to its name. As a scientist who has spent his career studying Mars, I want to see what the rover has achieved, thanks to the whole team of people around the world who helped make this mission a success,” said Lori Lechien, JPL director. “Yes, it’s sad to say goodbye, but InSight’s legacy will live on, informing and inspiring.”

Space is hard. But also inspirational. And InSight has proven both once again. ®

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