NASA’s InSight goes into safe mode during a regional dust storm on Mars

(ORDO NEWS) — NASA‘s InSight lander is operating in a steady state and is regularly transmitting scientific data from Mars to Earth since entering safe mode last Friday, January 7, after a major regional dust storm played out on the surface, which reduced the amount of sunlight reaching the solar panels of the device. … In safe mode, all functions of the spacecraft are suspended except for those required to maintain operation.

The mission’s scientific team re-established contact with the InSight apparatus on Monday, January 10, and found then that the flow of electricity generated by the apparatus remained steady and, although relatively small, was enough to compensate for the discharge of the batteries.

Fully discharged batteries are believed to have led to the completion of the Opportunity rover mission during a massive series of dust storms on the planet in 2018.

Even before this latest sandstorm began, dust tended to accumulate on the InSight’s solar panels, thereby reducing the lander’s available electrical power.

Using a bucket on the machine’s robotic arm, the InSight mission team proposed a new way to reduce the amount of dust on one of the machine’s panels and were able to generate additional amounts of energy several times during its implementation in 2021, but these activities became increasingly difficult to carry out in conditions of a general decrease in the amount of available energy.

The engineers of the InSight mission expect that they will be able to send a command to the device to exit safe mode as early as next week.

This will expand the range of operational capabilities of the device, which is currently limited, primarily due to the fact that communication with the Earth requires a large amount of energy.

InSight landed on Mars on November 26, 2018 on a mission to study the inner structure of the Red Planet, including its crust, mantle and core.

The apparatus successfully completed its assigned tasks even before the end date of the main mission, which was officially completed one year ago.

NASA then extended the mission for up to two more years, until December 2022, based on recommendations from an independent panel of experts.

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