It has now been a little over three years since the InSight lander reached the surface of Mars. The mission was launched as part of the US Space Agency’s Discovery program NASA and landed on the red planet on November 26, 2018. In 2020, the primary mission of InSight (Interior exploration using Sicemic Iinvestments, Geodesy and Heat Transport), now the secondary mission is coming to an end. Dusty Martian storms could accelerate this process.
NASA: Storms disrupt Mars mission
On behalf of the organizations NASA, DLR and CNES, the lander primarily examines the soil of the planet. In addition to a large number of other instruments, it is sometimes equipped with a seismometer and a heat flow probe. With their help, the Mars mission is investigating the early geological development of Mars. From the results that the lander has been delivering since 2018, scientists hope to gain insights into the formation of the earth-like planets in our solar system. In addition to Mars, these include Mercury and Venus.
However, the conditions on the planet’s surface are not always ideal for research. After all, we’re not the only ones plagued by storms here on earth. On Mars, they carry vast amounts of dust with them. This covers the solar panels of rovers like Curiosity and Perseverance, but also those of the InSight lander. The deposits drastically reduce the power generation of the robot. As recently as January, the NASA crew had to put the Mars mission into safe mode because of such a storm.
Power level stabilized for now
By now, the Mars mission’s solar panels would be generating nearly the same amount of electricity as before the storm. This should make it possible for the lander to initially continue its operation into the summer, writes NASA in a mission update in mid-February. To continue conserving energy, the team only turn on the InSight instruments for limited periods of time. It assumes that the accumulation of dust will increasingly reduce the performance of the probe over the coming months.
“Having achieved all of the mission’s primary science objectives, the goal now is to allow the probe to operate until the end of its expanded mission in December. A passing cyclone that kicks up dust, or a new dust storm that increases dust accumulation, could change the schedule.”
NASA (via InSight Mission News)
Source: InSight Mission News