NASA InSight survives by a lucky chance

The small Martian lander continues to work, although it is supposed to die a few months ago. NASA expected the InSight Mars lander to shut down last year, but a series of lucky accidents helped the brave spacecraft stay “alive” and continue working for the benefit of science. The other day, it was even able to record the sound of an asteroid falling on the surface of the Red Planet.

The Insight device. Source: NASA

Since June 2021, NASA has been preparing for the death of the lander. Experts assumed that it would work until the spring of 2022. However, NASA again postponed the completion of its mission, and predicted that it would finally shut down before the end of summer or even until the end of 2022, but in safe mode with full charge savings without scientific work. Nevertheless, operational updates and a number of successful events have extended InSight’s life.

Mars is now in the midst of a season of dust storms, usually disabling landers such as InSight. After such Martian hurricanes, dust collects on its solar panels and causes it to remain without electricity. But the season of dust storms on the Red Planet this year turned out to be very calm.

A picture of the solar array of the InSight probe, taken on April 24, 2022. Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“We have changed the operation of the module, improving its update. We were also lucky that the weather on Mars was unexpectedly calm, so dust storms didn’t do much damage to the device,” explained InSight project manager Chuck Scott from the California Institute of Technology and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Сalm death instead of uncertainty

Nevertheless, despite the pleasant weather for Mars, InSight is still living out its last days. Operators on Earth reprogram it for a “calm death” instead of switching to periodic safe modes, one of which may be fatal. 

Scott noted that after the device first landed in 2018, the production of electricity on board has gradually decreased and now amounts to only one tenth of the initial capacity. Now the device is powered only by solar panels, so every storm threatens the device with a complete shutdown, since the power of the charge next time may not be enough to exit the safe mode.

Sunset on Mars, taken from InSight. Photo: NASA/JPL

Therefore, InSight fans don’t have much time left to marvel at the scientific discoveries of the brave lander, which has been holding on for so long, contrary to NASA forecasts.

Earlier we reported on how InSight took the final selfie.

According to Space

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