April 1, 2023

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Dust on solar panels will soon be fatal to the Mars Insight lander |  Currently

Dust on solar panels will soon be fatal to the Mars Insight lander | Currently

Mars InSight lander at the end of its rope. The probe, which has been researching the internal structure of Mars for several years, is likely not to arrive until the end of the year.

InSight was launched in May 2018 and in November of that year the spacecraft landed on the surface of Mars. Since then, the probe has detected more than 1,300 earthquakes from Mars, among other things.

But, NASA recently reported: InSight is losing steam and has only a few months to live. The space agency expects the probe to be closed by the end of the year.

This is due to the amount of dust that has accumulated on the spacecraft’s solar panels. The probe is equipped with two solar panels, each about 2.2 meters wide.

Selfie with robot arm

The last time NASA allowed the spacecraft to take a “selfie” with its robotic arm was last week. This indicates a thick layer of dust on the solar panels. The probe cannot remove dust by itself.

“Before I lost any more solar energy, I took the time to take in my surroundings and take one last selfie, before permanently putting my arm and camera in storage,” NASA wrote in the report. Twitter account From InSight.

Dust limits the amount of force the probe can draw. Where in 2018 it was still possible to produce 5,000 watt-hours per day on Mars (1 day 39 minutes on Earth), that has now fallen to 500 watt-hours.

InSight is expected to lose more power in the near future. So scientific operations will be terminated from the summer. NASA expects the spacecraft to be completely unusable by December.

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A powerful whirlwind can help

That’s not entirely certain, though. A powerful whirlwind may still offer the solution. If such winds blow 25 percent of the probe’s dust, the spacecraft can continue to collect scientific data for the time being.

Such a powerful whirlwind is not very likely. So NASA is trying to collect as much scientific data as possible while it’s still possible.