Destruction by a super-powerful dust storm threatens to destroy InSight on Mars

NASA’s InSight lander is bravely fighting for its survival on the surface of Mars. But its luck may soon run out — the space lander is threatened by a Martian dust storm the size of a continent, which raged at the end of September. This hurricane threatens to completely leave the device without a power source. In early October, NASA has already noted a significant drop in the energy that the lander receives from solar panels.

The dusty solar panel of the NASA InSight lander

“On October 3, the storm acquired a sufficient scale and raised so much dust that the thickness of the dust fog in the Martian atmosphere increased by almost 40% around InSight,” the administration said in a statement on Friday. As the storm approached, the lander was no longer able to fully charge its batteries.

The global map of Mars from the end of September 2022 shows the location of InSight, Curiosity and Perseverance. Beige clouds indicate a dust storm. Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

The solar panels of the lander are covered with a thick layer of dust, which caused the device to lose the ability to receive electricity, which brought it closer to the end of its mission. The InSight team turned off most of the lander’s instruments, leaving only the seismometer working to try to identify as many marsquakes as possible.

Images of the NASA InSight Mars lander at the beginning of the mission in 2018 and 2022. The solar panels of the lander were covered with a thick layer of dust over time, which led to a gradual decrease in its power level. Authorship: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Recent events have helped InSight stay operational. NASA even hoped to extend the mission until the beginning of 2023, after which it finally turned off the device. But a Martian storm threatens to end the mission sooner. Still, there is some good news. The regional storm has probably already reached its peak and will subside soon. NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft is observing the hurricane from the planet’s orbit and has seen signs of its power slowing down.

Earlier, we reported on how the InSight mission recorded seismic vibrations from a meteorite falling on Mars.

According to NASA

Follow us on Twitter to get the most interesting space news in time