Nasa says sad farewell to Mars robot after years of landmark discoveries on the red planet
Nasa’s InSight robot has died after more than four years working on Mars.
InSight was a stationary robot designed to record the inner machinations of the red planet and recorded various “Marsquakes” - including a magnitude four quake on Christmas Eve last year, when a 39ft-wide meteorite crashed into the other side of the planet.
The machine last made contact with Earth on Dec 15. It failed to make contact on both Dec 18 and 21, meeting Nasa’s criteria to declare the mission terminated.
The lander was stationary, unlike the rovers of Opportunity and Perseverance, for example, and was powered by solar panels.
However, the two 7ft-wide panels have been steadily coated in the planet’s rouge dust and became increasingly inefficient. Now, they are generating insufficient power for the machine to function.
Nasa sent a final tweet from the lander as its power was low, saying:
My power’s really low, so this may be the last image I can send. Don’t worry about me though: my time here has been both productive and serene. If I can keep talking to my mission team, I will – but I’ll be signing off here soon. Thanks for staying with me. pic.twitter.com/wkYKww15kQ
— NASA InSight (@NASAInSight) December 19, 2022
Dr Daniel Brown, associate professor in astronomy at Nottingham Trent University, told The Telegraph that recently the solar panels were creating only a fifth of the energy that the $830 million mission first did when it landed in May 2018.
Nasa said in a statement that it will continue to look for any signs of life from InSight, but that this is “unlikely”.
“While saying goodbye to a spacecraft is always sad, the fascinating science InSight conducted is cause for celebration,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of Nasa’s Science Mission Directorate.
“InSight has more than lived up to its name,” added Laurie Leshin, director of Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
“Yes, it’s sad to say goodbye, but InSight’s legacy will live on, informing and inspiring.”
Bruce Banerdt, InSight mission principal investigator, said the machine was thought of “as a friend and colleague”, adding: “It’s hard to say goodbye, but it has earned its richly deserved retirement.”
After more than four years, 1,300 marsquakes, and countless scientific discoveries, our @NASAInSight lander has reached the end of its mission.
InSight may be retiring, but its legacy—and its findings from the deep interior of Mars—will live on: https://t.co/8884Slrbxr pic.twitter.com/UKozd4P28g
— NASA (@NASA) December 21, 2022
Dr Brown said that the data gathered by InSight has already yielded important results, and will likely continue to shed light on how Mars, and other parts of the Solar System, came to exist.
“Although it was a lander and not roaming the surface of Mars, its substantial exploration of seismic activity in its interior helped researchers to further understand Mars' interior,” he told The Telegraph.
“Never before have we been able to measure Mars’ seismic activity in such detail and even link it with meteor strikes. This work has shed light onto Mars' three major layers – crust, mantle, and core.
“It has also identified water ice buried underground, which was much closer to the equator than expected. Other aspects included tracing Mars’ ancient magnetic field and its complex weather patterns.
“InSight shows nicely how much we can achieve if we simply stay put and listen. An amazing addition to our roving and flying exploration of Mars.”
Opportunity died in 2019 after a 14-year career.InSight is survived by Nasa's Perseverance and Curiosity rovers.