After more than four years of collecting original Martian scientific data, NASA’s InSight programme has come to an end.
The spacecraft’s solar-powered batteries have run out of juice, a condition engineers refer to as “dead bus,” according to mission controllers at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California, after two straight attempts to contact the lander.
If the lander failed to respond to two attempts at communication, NASA had previously determined to end the project. Although hearing from the lander at this stage is seen as unlikely, the agency will keep listening for a signal from it. InSight last made contact with Earth on December 15.
In spite of how difficult it is to say goodbye to a spacecraft, Thomas Zurbuchen, assistant administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, observed the launch and landing of this mission.
The Mission Was A Success
The seismic data from this Discovery Program Mission alone provide excellent insights on both Mars and other rocky planets, including the Earth.
The InSight mission, which stands for Innards Exploration employing Seismic Investigations, Geodesy, and Heat Transport, was created to thoroughly investigate Mars’ interior.
The lander’s data have provided insights into the layers that make up Mars’ interior, the incredibly robust magnetic dynamo remnants that exist beneath the planet’s surface, the local weather, and a lot of earthquake activity.
Its extremely sensitive seismometer, daily monitoring by the French Space Agency Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES), and the Marsquake Service run by ETH Zurich all detected 1,319 marsquakes, including quakes brought on by meteoroid impacts, the largest of which uncovered boulder-size chunks of ice late last year.
These collisions enable scientists to calculate the age of the planet’s surface, and information from the seismometer enables them to investigate the planet’s crust, mantle, and core.
The Apollo Missions
Since The Apollo missions, when astronauts brought seismometers to the Moon, seismology has not been the primary objective of a mission beyond Earth until InSight, according to Philippe Lognonné of the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris, who is also the principal investigator of the seismometer on the mission.
Our science team can be proud of all we’ve learned because we broke new ground.
As dust built up on the lander’s solar panels over time—a process that started before NASA extended the mission earlier this year—it was the seismometer that was the last science instrument to remain switched on.
More than achieving its name, InSight has. Thanks to a huge team of individuals from all around the world who worked to make this mission a success, Laurie Leshin, Director of JPL, which oversees the project, said that as a scientist who has devoted her career to researching Mars, she has been thrilled to see what the lander has accomplished. Despite the sadness of saying goodbye.
InSight’s legacy will continue to inform and inspire. InSight faced the same difficulties as all Mars missions do. The lander had a self-hammering spike, dubbed “the mole,” that was designed to dig 16 feet (5 meters) below the surface.
It also had a tether that was loaded with sensors that could measure the planet’s internal heat and help researchers determine how much energy from Mars’ formation was still present.
The Mole, built for the loose, sandy soil encountered on prior missions, was unable to cling to the unexpectedly clumsy material surrounding InSight. The device, which was supplied by the German Aerospace Center (DLR), eventually buried its 16-inch (40-centimeter) probe just below the surface, gathering useful information regarding the temperature and physical characteristics of the Martian soil along the way.
This is helpful for any future missions, human or robotic, that aim to drill underground.
Thanks to JPL and DLR Engineers’ creative use of the lander’s robotic arm, the mission successfully buried the mole to the greatest extent possible. The arm, together with its little scoop, was used to clean dust from InSight’s solar panels in addition to its primary purpose of positioning scientific instruments on the Martian surface.
Reason Behind The Mission Of JPL
For the past four years, The Mission’s principal investigator Bruce Banerdt of JPL remarked, “We’ve regarded InSight as our friend and colleague on Mars, so it’s hard to say goodbye.” But now that it has earned a well-deserved retirement, it may relax.
For the Science Mission Directorate of NASA, JPL oversees InSight. The Marshall Space Flight Center of NASA, located near Huntsville, Alabama, is in charge of the Discovery Program, which includes InSight.
The InSight Spacecraft
The InSight spacecraft, including its lander and cruise stage, was constructed by Lockheed Martin Space in Denver, which also provides support for mission-related spacecraft operations.
The German Aerospace Center (DLR) and France’s CNES are two of the many European organizations supporting the InSight programme.
The French CNES and the German Aerospace Center (DLR), among other European partners, are supporting the InSight mission. The Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) instrument was given to NASA by the French CNES and the German Aerospace Center.
SEIS benefited from contributions from IPGP, the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Germany, Imperial College London and JPL.