(ORDO NEWS) — The day is approaching when NASA’s InSight spacecraft will complete its historic mission to explore the interior of the Red Planet.
The spacecraft’s power output continues to decline as the layer of dust on its solar panels thickens, so the team of scientists has taken steps to use the remaining power for as long as possible.
Even as the task force continues to make the most of InSight, the researchers have to prepare for the end of the mission.
The most important final step in InSight’s mission is to preserve the accumulated data and make it available to researchers around the world.
The lander transmitted information about the inner layers of Mars, the weather in this part of the planet, and earthquake activity.
The InSight seismometer has recorded more than 1,300 tremors since landing in November 2018, the largest earthquake having a magnitude of 5. The seismometer also recorded earthquakes from meteoroid impacts.
The seismometer readings will join the only set of extraterrestrial seismic data from the Apollo lunar missions in NASA’s Planetary Data System.
They will also go to the international archive operated by the Joint Seismological Research Institutes, which stores all data from the land seismic network.
During the summer, the spacecraft had so little power left that the researchers turned off all other InSight scientific instruments to keep the seismometer running.
During a recent dust storm, the team decided to completely turn off the seismometer in order to save energy.
Now that the storm has ended, the seismometer is picking up data again, although scientists expect the lander’s power to last for several more weeks.
NASA will declare a mission complete when InSight misses two consecutive communications with a Mars-orbiting spacecraft, but only if InSight itself is the cause of the missed communications.
In the meantime, as long as InSight remains online, the team will continue to collect data. “We will continue to make scientific measurements for as long as we can,” the researchers said.
“We are at the mercy of Mars. The weather on Mars is not rain and snow; the weather on Mars is dust and wind.”
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