As NASA announced on Tuesday, NASA Mars Lander InsighDon’t complete your scientific mission this summer and go completely inactive by the end of the year after losing your power supply. As the mission draws to a close, the legacy of the lunar module is starting to take shape as scientists examine the unprecedented data that InSight has collected on Mars’ deep interior, weather and magnetic field.
“Before InSight, the interior of Mars was a big question mark,” Bruce Bannerd, InSight’s principal investigator at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, told reporters on Tuesday. “We only had a very vague picture of what’s happening inside Mars. Now we can make a really quantitatively accurate picture.”
And although InSight will be phased out this year as it loses power, it is still collecting valuable data. On May 4, InSight detected a magnitude 5 earthquake – the strongest on record, with a magnitude 10.
Thanks to the data collected by InSight, scientists can estimate the thickness of the Martian crust to within 10 km and the size of the Martian core within 50 km.
This information, Banerdt says, “now allows us to validate our model of planet formation and study how the planets evolved from the dust cloud that orbited the Sun.”
With the new data, Banerdt says, “we are already able to rule out two-thirds of the planet-formation models that exist just by looking at the size and density of the core and the thickness of the crust.”
Since landing on Mars in November 2018, InSight — short for Interior Exploration Using Seismic Probes, Geodesy and Heat Transport — has been using a seismometer to measure waves moving through the planet’s interior. Is. InSight also carried a Mars probe designed to measure temperature and heat flow inside the planet. However, the instrument called MOLLE encountered an unexpected layer of crust in the Martian soil, preventing it from penetrating deep enough to make the planned measurements.
The problems with the Mole were “probably the mission’s biggest disappointment,” Bannert said. Still, according to Banerdt, the main goals his team had set for InSight were all achieved. In fact, the mission’s primary science goals have already been achieved in its first year to Mars (about two Earth years), and the lander is now on an extended mission.
The data collected over the past three and a half years, as well as the data that InSight continues to collect, are all archived and available to the entire scientific community. According to Banerdt, they should be “valuable for decades to come.”
While InSight is still collecting data, the lander has become very dusty. It is so dirty that its two solar panels, which are about a meter wide, generate significantly less electricity than before. At the start of the mission, InSight’s solar cells were producing about 5,000 watt-hours per Mars, or sol — enough to power an electric furnace for an hour and 40 minutes. They now produce about 500 watt-hours per sol – enough to power a single electric stove for just 10 minutes.
In addition, seasonal changes on Mars would make it even more difficult for solar panels to produce electricity. There will be more dust in the air over the next few months, which will reduce solar radiation.
Therefore, NASA will operate the seismometer continuously this spring until it is turned off by the end of the summer. Meanwhile, InSight’s robotic arm will soon be placed in a resting position, called ‘rest’, which will allow it to take pictures. Running at very low power, InSight can still capture some images until it shuts down completely at the end of the year.
Internet fan. Alcohol expert. Beer ninja. Organizer. Certified tv specialist. Explorer. Social media nerd.