NASA announced the date of discontinuation of the InSight mission

The InSight spacecraft will discontinue operation by December 2022. This is stated in an announcement published on the NASA website.

InSight Mission Objectives

InSight landed on Mars in November 2018. The main objective of the mission was to study the internal structure and tectonic activity of the Red Planet. To do this, InSight unloaded the SEIS seismometer to the surface, which has since registered many marsquakes.

SEIS seismometer. Source: CNES

Another important goal of the mission was to measure the heat coming from the depths of Mars. This task was assigned to the HP3 tool. Unfortunately, due to the unusual properties of the soil at the landing site, it was not able to reach the working depth, which led to the failure of the experiment.

Energy problems

During InSight’s work, NASA has twice extended the duration of its mission. There will be no third one — mission specialists do not expect InSight to “live” until 2022. The reason is a thick layer of dust accumulated on the surface of the probe’s solar panels. If at the time of landing they generated about 5,000 watts of energy per hour, now this figure has decreased to 500 watts. As the output decreases further, there will inevitably come a time when InSight will no longer have enough energy to maintain communication with the Earth.

InSight solar array image taken shortly after landing in December 2018. Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Image of the solar array of the InSight probe, taken on April 24, 2022. NASA/JPL-Caltech

Recall that engineers have made a number of attempts to clean the solar panels of the probe, and some of them have had some success. But they only delayed the inevitable. According to the mission’s management, now the only chance to save the device lies in the passage of a tornado through it, which will blow away all the dust from its solar panels. However, the probability of such an event is minimal. Therefore, the mission specialists have already made a work plan for the last months of the probe’s life.

Completing the InSight Mission

The main priority of the final stage of the InSight mission will be SEIS. It will be turned on several times a day, during periods when the Martian winds weaken, which simplifies the registration of marsquakes. As for the other systems and devices of the device, their activity will be minimized. So, it is planned to disable the InSight robotic arm in the near future. According to experts, they are going to take some more pictures of Mars — but there simply won’t be enough energy for more.

It is expected that SEIS will be able to continue observations until the end of this summer. After that, it will be disabled. And by December, energy production will drop so much that InSight will no longer be able to communicate with Earth. This event will put an end to the four-year mission of the device.

According to

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