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Outer Space

NASA’s InSight Mars lander takes its final selfie

A build-up of dust has meant InSight’s solar panels are gradually losing power and it is anticipated to end science operations later this summer.

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By Dean Murray via SWNS

Goodnight Insight!

NASA's InSight Mars lander has taken its final selfie after becoming covered in Martian dust.

The robotic lander snapped a last self-portrait on April 24, 2022, the 1,211th Martian day, or sol, of the mission.

A build-up of dust has meant InSight’s solar panels are gradually losing power and it is anticipated to end science operations later this summer.

The final selfie is in contrast to its first, taken in December 2018 not long after landing, which showed a clean surface.

However, a second selfie, composed of images taken in March and April 2019, did display a thin coating of dust after the spacecraft removed its heat probe and seismometer from its deck, and placed them on the Martian surface.

When InSight landed, the solar panels produced around 5,000 watt-hours each Martian day – enough to power an electric oven for an hour and 40 minutes. Now, they’re producing roughly 500 watt-hours per sol – enough to power the same electric oven for just 10 minutes.

The arm now needs to move several times in order to capture a full selfie, but because InSight's dusty solar panels are producing less power, the team plan to put the lander's robotic arm in its resting position (called the "retirement pose") for the last time this month and end science operations later this summer.

By December, InSight’s team expects the lander to have become inoperative, concluding a mission that has thus far detected more than 1,300 marsquakes – most recently, a magnitude 5 that occurred on May 4 – and located quake-prone regions of the Red Planet.

InSight, or Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport mission, is a robotic lander designed to study the deep interior of the planet Mars.

It landed on Mars Nov. 26, 2018, equipped with a pair of solar panels that each measures about 7 feet (2.2 meters) wide.

The lander was designed to accomplish the mission’s primary science goals in its first Mars year (nearly two Earth years). Having achieved them, the spacecraft is now reaching the end of its extended mission.

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