NASA’s Mars earthquake-hunting lander is squeezing as much science as possible amid dwindling power supplies, but it likely only has a few months left for its mission.
The Mars probe InSight It combats long-term dust buildup on solar panels and drops to one-tenth of its available downward power of 5,000 watt-hours, officials said at a press conference on Tuesday (May 17).
“When we landed, it was about an hour – 40 minutes or so – where you could run [the equivalent of] Electric Oven” Cathia Zamora Garcia, deputy director of the InSight project at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratoryto reporters. Now, Garcia added, “We’ll probably run that about 10 minutes max.”
But exactly when InSight shuts down its devices Mars For good, Jet Propulsion Laboratory principal investigator Bruce Banerdt told reporters, as it depends on weather, spacecraft performance and other factors that are hard to pin down.
“It has exceeded our expectations at nearly every turn on Mars, so it may actually last longer than that,” Banerdt said.
InSight landed on the Red Planet in November 2018 and made unprecedented measurements of seismic activity on Mars, following less than successful attempts by spacecraft like Viking. Just weeks ago, Insight The biggest earthquake ever on Mars It has been reported among 1,300 others that have been sensed since they came to Elysium Planitia.
Bannerdt said the mission allowed scientists to set precise limits on shell thickness and core size, which he described as the icing on the cake.
“We just had a really vague picture of what was going on inside Mars [before]and I think the real contribution of InSight is that we can now paint a quantitatively accurate picture of the interior.”
But like many other solar-powered vehicles on Mars, the limiting factor for InSight was dust stifling sunlight, the mission’s primary source of energy. NASA has been warning for months that The Mars Insight lander will likely fail by the middle of the year 2022, even after InSight is awarded an extension of its continuing scientific value.
Due to weight and power concerns, the probe did not carry an additional dust-cleaning system, such as motors or brushes. Engineers were able to remove quite a few solar panels in 2021 after that Sand falls on the lander and lets the wind blow across the board to wipe some dust. But in the absence of strong winds from a nearby dust demon, InSight was left battling the buildup of sand.
To conserve energy as best as possible, this spring the mission will be tasked with placing its arm in “retirement position,” in an inverted V-shaped position to capture views of the seismometer once it is no longer allowed to move from the ground. The seismometer will run at least intermittently for longer, but it and other instruments should be turned off by late summer.
Bannerdt emphasized, however, that the science team will remain busy for at least another six months on the immediate mission missions, even after InSight completes data collection. “We get the final data products, such as our final Martian earthquake catalog and our final Mars models,” he said.
The team will upload their last data slices to a file Publicly available archive that strives to provide scientific information within three months of it being collected, Bannerdt said. This information will remain available essentially forever, as well as a catalog of retired space mission data that can be revisited for future investigations.
The archive will not only be useful for future Mars missions, but also for other missions that may use seismic investigations or evaluate the interiors of rocky worlds. Bannerdt, who said he’s been working to get a seismometer on the Red Planet for most of his career, suggested that Venus might be a next natural location (assuming said device can withstand the intense heat).
Officials also cited Dragonfly Mission to Saturn’s moon Titan As a beneficiary of InSight research, the lander will carry a seismometer. The mission to search for life should begin in 2027, if everything goes as planned.
InSight exceeded its main mission objectives despite the confrontation Problems with the “mole” thermometer search probewas supposed to tunnel deep into the regolith to look at any heat falling from the interior of Mars.
In January 2021, NASA abandons many brave attempts to get the German Aerospace Center (DLR) – the mole works, amid an expanded review panel Warning that the mission was already running out. The problem is due to InSight encountering more sandy soil than those on the Red Planet before, which the mole was not designed to tackle (despite efforts).
In the end, the Mole got only a few inches below the surface, instead of the 10 feet (3 meters) his design called for, but Bannerdt said the instrument had always been seen as complementary (and not entirely necessary) to Insight’s mandate to assess Mars’ internal activity.
“Seismology tells us what the building blocks of the planet are today, and [mole] It will tell us something about its dynamics,” Bannerdt said. What was lost, he said, was able to put some temperature constraints on the core, although some suggestions could come from seismology.
Bannerdt admitted that his upcoming birthday, which coincides with Insight’s birthday Task selection date On August 20, 2012, it could be very different in 2022 if calm reigns over the probe by then. “This mission is really close and dear to my heart,” he said.
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