NASA’s Marsquake-seeking lander squeezes out as much science as possible amid waning power stores, but it likely only has a few months left for its mission.
The Mars lander InSight is combatting a long-term accumulation of dust on its solar panels and is down to one-tenth of its accessible landing power of 5,000 watt-hours, administrators said in a press conference Tuesday (May 17).
“When we landed, it was about an hour — 40 minutes or so — where you can run [the equivalent of] an electric oven,” Kathya Zamora Garcia, InSight deputy project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said to reporters. Now, Garcia added, “We could probably run that approximately 10 minutes max.”
“It’s exceeded our expectations at just about every turn on Mars, and so it may actually last longer than that,” Banerdt said.
InSight touched down on the Red Planet in November 2018 and gave rise to unprecedented measurements pertaining to seismic activity on Mars, following less-than-successful experiments by spacecraft such as Viking. Just weeks ago, InSight’s biggest-ever quake on Mars was documented amid 1,300 others it has sensed since coming to Elysium Planitia.
But like many other solar-powered craft on Mars, InSight’s restricting factor was dust choking off sunlight, which is the main source of power for the mission. NASA has been warning for months that the InSight Mars lander would potentially fail by mid-year 2022, even after awarding InSight an expansion for its continued science value.
The team will upload their previous tranches of data to a publicly available archive that strives to have science information available within three months of collection, Banerdt announced. This information will be accessible forever, adding to the retired space mission data catalog that could be reconsidered for future investigations.