The Mars lander InSight is battling a long-term accumulation of dust on its solar panels. It is losing power. When the lander arrived on the Red Planet, the panels generated 5,000 watt-hours per sol (a Martian day). Now it is generating one-tenth of the power from the sun that it did upon arrival.When InSight closes off its instruments on Mars is a big unknown, as it depends on the weather, the spacecraft’s performance and other factors difficult to quantify. InSight touched down on the Red Planet in November 2018 and made unprecedented measurements concerning seismic activity on Mars, revealing important things about the interior of the red planet.
The probe has detected more than 1300 marsquakes since landing on Mars in 2018, residing near the Martian equator in a smooth impact crater named Elysium Planitia. The biggest one, a magnitude 5.0, occurred two weeks ago. The mission, originally planned to last two years, allowed scientists to precisely place limits on the thickness of the crust and the size of the core. Due to weight and power concerns, the lander did not carry a supplemental system to clean off dust, such as motors or brushes. The seismometer will run at least intermittently for a while longer, but it and other instruments should be turned off by late summer. InSight exceeded its major mission goals. NASA’s two other functioning spacecraft on the Martian surface – rovers Curiosity and Perseverance – are still going thanks to nuclear power.