NASA’s InSight Mars lander takes one last selfie

NASA’s InSight Mars lander took what the space agency says will be its last selfie on April 24 this year. The lander can be seen covered in a lot of dust. The InSight team expects the lander to become inoperative by December, thus concluding a mission that has detected more than 1,300 marsquakes and located the most quake-prone regions of the Red Planet.

The Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) robotic lander is designed to study the deep interior of the red planet. It is managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory but most of its scientific instruments were built by European agencies. It was launched aboard an Atlas V launch vehicle on May 5, 2018, and successfully landed on Mars on November 26, 2018.

In order to capture such a full “selfie,” InSight’s robotic arms have to move several. But the InSight’s solar panels are quite dusty and produce very little power. The team will put the lander’s robotic arm in its resting position, called retirement pose, for the last time this month (May).

The InSight lander was the first to detect a quake on another planet. Its onboard seismometer has measured over 1,300 seismic events, with over 50 of them having clear enough signals for the team to learn information about where they occurred on the planet. The most recent one happened this month and had an estimated magnitude of 5, with reverberations coursing through the planet for at least six hours.

Apart from seismic data, InSight also collected the most comprehensive weather data of any mission sent to the planet. InSight’s sensors have detected thousands of passing dust devils using its pressure sensor and seismometer which can feel the surface tilt as the dust devils tug on it like a vacuum cleaner.

It also observed atmospheric features such as weather fronts, dust storms, turbulence, infrasound and bore waves, providing a much more complete picture of the planet’s weather patterns, which will inform future missions to Mars.

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