One last gasp for Insight lander on Mars before dust kills the quake whisperer - India Today


All instruments but the seismometer have already been powered down. (Photo: Nasa) The Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy, and Heat Transport (InSight) lander, which has its ears stuck to the Martian grounds, listening to the faintest of rumbles and churnings, will have one last gasp of breath before its mission ends due to dust accumulation. Nasa has decided to operate its seismometers longer than previously planned. With the solar power diminishing by the day for the rover, the team has decided to revise the timeline in order to maximise the science. The spacecraft was programmed to shut down the seismometer InSight’s last operational science instrument by the end of June to save energy. However, the team now plans to program the lander so that the seismometer can operate longer, perhaps until the end of August or into early September. However, the decision will have consequences for the spacecraft on the alien world. Keeping the seismometer on will discharge the lander’s batteries sooner and cause the spacecraft to run out of power at that time as well, but it might enable the seismometer to detect additional marsquakes. he lander has detected more than 1,300 marsquakes since touching down on Mars in 2018. (Photo: Nasa) “InSight hasn’t finished teaching us about Mars yet. We’re going to get every last bit of science we can before the lander concludes operations,” Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division said in a statement. The spacecraft has been on the Red Planet for eight years now as dust takes over its solar panels blocking sunlight from recharging the batteries. The spacecraft is currently in the final year of its mission extension completes by the end of this year. Since landing on Mars in 2018, InSight has detected more than 1,300 marsquakes; the biggest one, a magnitude 5, occurred earlier this year. InSight has allowed scientists to measure the depth and composition of Mars’ crust, mantle, and core. With its other instruments, InSight has recorded invaluable weather data, investigated the soil beneath the lander, and studied remnants of Mars’ ancient magnetic field. Nasa said that all the instruments but the seismometer have already been powered down. Like other Mars spacecraft, InSight has a fault protection system that automatically triggers “safe mode” in threatening situations and shuts down all but its most essential functions, allowing engineers to assess the situation. Low power and temperatures that drift outside predetermined limits can both trigger safe mode. Chuck Scott, InSight’s project manager said, “The goal is to get scientific data all the way to the point where InSight can’t operate at all, rather than conserve energy and operate the lander with no science benefit.”.