'My power's really low': Dust-choked Nasa Mars lander InSight sends possibly final tweet from Mars

Their other currently-functioning Mars spacecraft are Curiosity and Perseverance — two nuclear-powered rovers that continue their studies of the Red Planet

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Photo: @NASAInSight/Twitter
Photo: @NASAInSight/Twitter

Published: Tue 20 Dec 2022, 1:19 PM

On Monday, Nasa's InSight lander — one of the space agency's explorer robots on Mars — communicated its possibly-final message from the Red Planet, as per a report from The Guardian.

The US space agency had released a notification in November explaining that the lander's historic mission on Mars would soon come to an end, citing a gradual build-up of dust on its surface — especially on the solar panels (an important power source) – as the reason.

According to the communique, dated November 1:

"Nasa will declare the mission over when InSight misses two consecutive communication sessions with the spacecraft orbiting Mars, part of the Mars Relay Network – but only if the cause of the missed communication is the lander itself," said network manager Roy Gladden of JPL.

After that, NASA’s Deep Space Network will listen for a time, just in case.

There will be no heroic measures to re-establish contact with InSight. While a mission-saving event – a strong gust of wind, say, that cleans the panels off – isn’t out of the question, it is considered unlikely. In the meantime, as long as InSight remains in contact, the team will continue gathering data.

“We’ll keep making science measurements as long as we can,” Banerdt said.

“We’re at Mars’ mercy. Weather on Mars is not rain and snow; weather on Mars is dust and wind,” explained Bruce Banerdt of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, the mission’s principal investigator.

A poignant tweet shared by InSight's Twitter account read:

"My power’s really low, so this may be the last image I can send. Don’t worry about me though: my time here has been both productive and serene. If I can keep talking to my mission team, I will – but I’ll be signing off here soon. Thanks for staying with me."

According to Fox 5, "since landing on Mars in 2018, InSight has detected more than 1,300 marsquakes; the biggest one, a magnitude 5, occurred two weeks ago".

It will be Nasa’s second Mars lander lost to dust: a global dust storm took out Opportunity in 2018. In InSight’s case, it’s been a gradual gathering of dust, especially over the past year, Fox 5 added.

Nasa's other currently-functioning Mars spacecraft are Curiosity and Perseverance — two nuclear-powered rovers that continue the space agency's studies of the Red Planet.


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