Selfie from InSight: image courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech.
NASA scientists have recently captured a Martian “selfie” using the InSight Mars lander. Slowly powering down in the coming weeks, the remote crew wanted to give the lander a proper send off with a cute picture memorializing its time on Mars.
NASA's InSight Mars lander is a stationary anchored probe designed to aid in the study of Mars’ interior. Unlike NASA's Perseverance and Opportunity rovers on the surface of Mars — Insight’s stationary position is necessary to conduct research on Martian composition and how tectonic activity takes place on the planet.
InSight has been in active use and transmitting data to remote crew since its landing in 2018, however built up dust on the solar power array has led to continual reductions in power levels. The lander is currently functioning at 1/10 its normal power supply. A secondary dust removal system is not equipped to the lander and there have been attempts in 2021 by controlled rovers to move some of the dust over time but the delicate nature of the removal makes efforts to clear the panels nearly impossible with the current tech.
Closer Image of Dusty Solar Array: image courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech.
Power is expected to experience critically low power later this year and is set to be moved into a final resting “victory pose” by the end of summer. There is hope yet as a strong breeze could potentially clear some space on the solar array but for now, hats off to Insight for performing well above expectations on its mission!
During its mission transmissions, InSight has thus far detected more than 1,300 marsquakes – including a magnitude 5 that occurred on May 4th. The data captured during these quakes has given essential insight to scientists on the depth and composition of the Martian crust which will be key to further missions in the future. Additionally, the lander has recorded essential data on weather patterns and studied remnants of Mars’ extremely old magnetic field.
As scientists begin preparations for the lander to power down, they took one last opportunity to capture this historic mission with a fun ‘selfie’. In the image, the built up dust on the lander can be seen on the umbrella-like arrays. Below is a comparison of the craft upon landing and now.
InSight Comparison: image courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech
During a recent May 17th press conference, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s principle investigator for the mission, Bruce Banerdt, said of the lander: "It's exceeded our expectations at just about every turn on Mars”.
Everyone say a little “Thank You” to Insight for advancing our understanding of Mars and bringing us one step further in exploring our Galaxy!
Learn more about InSight Lander, here.
Send a personalized postcard and message to the Insight Mission team, here!