Mars probe InSight failed to communicate. NASA suggests it’s gone silent forever

(ORDO NEWS) — Last Sunday, an attempt to communicate with the InSight research landing platform, which has worked on Mars for more than four years, ended in failure.

The apparatus, which had considerably exceeded its service life, did not answer and, most likely, never will be able to. For the past few months, its solar panels have seen a steady decline in power generation.

The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration ( NASA ) posted a short message on the InSight mission blog about communication problems.

It clarifies that the last time it was possible to establish contact with the device on December 15. Presumably, the landing platform no longer has enough power to transmit data.

Such an outcome was predicted from the very beginning of the mission, but the “silence” of the apparatus, judging by the NASA report , still became a little unexpected.

The specific cause of the lack of energy, as noted, is unknown. We add that, most likely, it will not be possible to install it.

One can only assume that the InSight solar panels were finally covered with dust and they no longer had time to charge the degraded batteries to the required level in one day.

It is somewhat ironic that at the time of its landing on Mars, InSight became the most power-equipped of all the vehicles that visited this planet.

The output of its two huge solar panels initially reached 4.6 kilowatt-hours in one Martian day (sol). For comparison, equipped with a “nuclear battery” – RTG – the Curiosity rover produced 2.8 kilowatt-hours per day.

Such a powerful power supply system went to the InSight probe precisely because of the dependence on sunlight.

The project was developed under strict budgetary and time constraints. To reduce the cost, the architecture of the Phoenix landing platform (landed in 2008) was chosen , which was improved and equipped with new generation solar panels.

In addition, InSight landed almost at the equator in order to receive as much energy as possible.

In addition, at the time of the creation of the device, NASA had problems with the purchase of plutonium-238 for radioisotope generators, which could also affect the choice of power source.

Mars probe InSight failed to communicate NASA suggests its gone silent forever Upd 2
The last photo taken by the vehicle was posted on the mission’s Twitter account on December 20. The caption reads: “Energy is very low, so this may be the last image I send. However, don’t worry about me – my time here has been both productive and serene at the same time. If I can talk to the team further, I will, but very soon I will be completely offline. Thank you for being with me.”

As a result, the initial life of InSight was limited solely by the vicissitudes of Martian weather. The more dust settled on the panels, the more their efficiency decreased.

In 2021, a dust devil (a small tornado) walked right through the apparatus and the output increased slightly.

Since May of that year, mission engineers have tried throwing sand with InSight ‘s robotic arm onto the edge of the solar panel to sweep away nearby dust, but that hasn’t helped much.

The mission’s main science program ended two years ago, but the nominally expanded one is still going on. However, over the past few months, power outages have become more noticeable.

Although the mission team to the last managed to almost not limit the functionality of the apparatus.

By December 2022, two of the three main scientific instruments (the SEIS seismometer and the RISE experiment ) and an additional one (the TWINS weather station) were still operating on InSight.

Simply put, everything but the long-suffering submersible probe.

A little over a week ago, NASA reported that the solar panels generated about 285 watt-hours per sol, with a moderate amount of dust in the atmosphere.

On Mars , InSight was supposed to work for two years, but eventually served all four. This is the first specialized geological apparatus on the Red Planet.

Thanks to his data, it was possible to significantly expand our knowledge of its internal structure.

Even despite the failure of one of the key tools – the “mole” HP 3 , which could not be submerged five meters deep into the planet – the success of the mission is enormous.

There are chances that InSight will get in touch again, but they are minimal and getting smaller every day.

The InSight mission is officially over . On December 18, another attempt was made to “reach out” to the probe, but it was not successful.

In November, NASA clarified that it considers two missed communication sessions to be a sign of its failure.

The main version – InSight was unable to replenish the batteries to the minimum required level due to a decrease in energy production from solar panels and spent the entire remaining charge at night.

The landing platform could not heat itself or even turn on to start feeding the batteries from the photocells.

This condition is called “dead chassis”. For some time, the mission team will continue to listen to the broadcast, but there are no hopes for the revival of the device.

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