Mars InSight Lander Goes Silent


A "selfie" taken by the InSight lander on Mars in early 2019. | Image by NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s InSight Lander, the rover on the surface of Mars, has been decommissioned after four years of service.

The craft’s power had already been declining, signaling that its operation was coming to an end.

NASA previously said that it would declare the end of InSight’s mission when the rover misses two consecutive communication sessions with the five spacecraft currently orbiting Mars — the middlemen in the Mars Relay Network — which would help to confirm that the problem was with the lander itself.

NASA reported that the InSight rover did not respond to communications from Earth on Sunday. Nonetheless, NASA’s Deep Space Network said it would continue to monitor the rover just in case.

A tweet from the craft’s POV on Monday indicated that its mission was coming to a close.

“My power’s really low, so this may be the last image I can send. Don’t worry about me though: my time here has been both productive and serene,” the NASA InSight account posted.

“If I can keep talking to my mission team, I will — but I’ll be signing off here soon. Thanks for staying with me,” it continued.

After the rover failed to communicate with mission control a second time, NASA officially announced the end of the craft’s operations on Wednesday.

The InSight Lander launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base on May 5, 2018, and landed on Mars on November 26, 2018. The rover’s mission was to study the inner workings of the red planet. It sent back information about the planet’s interior layers, remnants of Mars’ extinct magnetic dynamo, weather, and seismic activity.

InSight’s work aided scientists in determining the age of Mars’ surface while providing a way to study the planet’s crust, mantle, and core.

“I watched the launch and landing of this mission, and while saying goodbye to a spacecraft is always sad, the fascinating science InSight conducted is cause for celebration,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington in a release.

“The seismic data alone from this Discovery Program mission offers tremendous InSights not just into Mars but other rocky bodies, including Earth,” he continued.

Laurie Leshin, director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), said that the craft had more than lived up to its name.

“As a scientist who’s spent a career studying Mars, it’s been a thrill to see what the lander has achieved, thanks to an entire team of people across the globe who helped make this mission a success,” Leshin said.

“Yes, it’s sad to say goodbye, but InSight’s legacy will live on, informing and inspiring,” she continued.

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