NASA prepares to say goodbye to the InSight spacecraft – NASA’s Insight Mars probe

Comparison of InSight selfies

Using the camera on its robotic arm, NASA’s InSight probe captured these selfies on December 6, 2018 – just 10 days after landing on Mars – and April 24, 2022. A thick layer of dust can be seen on the probe and its solar panels in the last image. Source: NASA / JPL-Caltech. Download image ›

A closer look at what goes into completing a mission as the spacecraft’s power supply continues to dwindle.

The day is approaching when NASA Mars lander InSight She will shut up, ending her history-making mission to reveal the secrets of the Red Planet’s interior. The spacecraft’s power generation continues to decline as wind-blown dust increases on the solar panels, so the team has taken steps to last as long as possible with the remaining power. The end is expected to come in the next few weeks.

The rocket that launched NASA's Insight lander to Mars in 2018 is seen at Vandenberg Air Force Base, now called Vandenberg Space Force Base.

The InSight missile prepares for launch: The rocket that launched NASA’s Insight lander to Mars in 2018 is seen at Vandenberg Air Force Base, now called Vandenberg Space Force Base. Source: NASA / JPL-Caltech / Charles Babir. Download image ›

But even as the narrow operations team of 25 to 30 members—a small group compared to other Mars missions—continue to push as hard as possible from InSight (short for Inland Exploration Using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Thermal Transport), they’re also beginning to take steps to finish the mission. .

Here’s a glimpse of what it looks like.

Data preservation

The most important final step in InSight’s mission is to store its dataset and make it accessible to researchers around the world. Probe data revealed details about the planet Mars. inner layersthe liquid core, the surprisingly variable remnants below the surface of the mostly extinct magnetic field, the weather in this part of Mars, and a lot of earthquake activity.

ideas seismometerprovided by the French National Center for Space Studies (CNES), has discovered more than 1,300 swamps since the probe landed in November 2018, the largest measurement 5 . size. but it Earthquakes recorded From meteor impacts. Observing how seismic waves from those earthquakes change as they travel across the planet provides an invaluable glimpse into the interior of Mars but also provides a better understanding of how all of the rocky worlds, including Earth and the Moon, formed.

“Finally, we can see Mars as a planet with different layers, thicknesses, and compositions,” said Bruce Banerdt of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, principal investigator on the mission. “We’re really starting to dig out the details. Now it’s not just a puzzle. It’s actually a living, breathing planet.”

The seismometer readings will join the only other set of extraterrestrial seismic data, from the Apollo lunar missions, in NASA’s Planetary Data System. JPL’s Sue Smrekar, deputy principal investigator at InSight, said she will also be moving to an international archive operated by the Integrated Seismology Research Institutions, which includes “all of the Earth’s seismic network data sites.” “Now, we also have one on Mars.”

Smrekar said the data is expected to continue to drive discoveries for decades.

Energy management

Earlier this summer, the probe had so little power left that the mission turned off all of InSight’s other science instruments in order to To keep the seismometer running. They even turned off a fault protection system that would have automatically shut down the seismometer if the system detected that the landing power generation was dangerously low.

“We’ve reduced it to less than 20% of the original generation capacity,” Banerdt said. “That means we can’t run the machines around the clock.”

Recently, after adding a regional dust storm to the dust-covered solar panels, the team decided to turn off the seismometer completely in order to save energy. Now that the storm is over, the seismometer is collecting data again – although the mission expects the probe to only have enough power for a few more weeks.

Of the array of sensors in the seismometer, only the most sensitive were still operating, said Liz Barrett, who leads the team’s science and instrument operations at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

twin packs

The silent member of the team is ForeSight, and InSight full size geometric model in JPL On-site tool lab. Engineers used ForeSight to practice how InSight could place scientific instruments on the surface of Mars using the rover’s robotic arm, Test techniques To get the probe temperature probe in Sticky Martian soildeveloping methods Noise reduction Picked up by a seismometer.

In a test space at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, engineers are training to deploy InSight instruments using ForeSight, a full-size replica of the lander that will be mobilized once the mission is complete.

InSight Publishing Practice: In a test space at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, engineers are training to deploy InSight instruments using ForeSight, a full-size replica of the lander that will be mobilized once the mission is complete. Many engineers wear sunglasses to block out the bright yellow lights that mimic sunlight as they appear on Mars. Source: NASA / JPL-Caltech / IPGP. Image download ›

Forsight will be placed in a storage box. “We will fill it with loving care,” Banerdt said. “She was a great tool, a great companion for us on this whole mission.”

Mission End Announcement

NASA will announce the end of the mission when InSight misses two consecutive contact sessions with the Mars-orbiting spacecraft, part of the Mars Relay Network — but only if the cause of the connection loss was the probe itself, said network administrator Roy Gladden of JPL. Then, NASA’s Deep Space Network He’ll listen for a while, just in case.

There will be no heroic actions to reconnect with InSight. While a mission-saving event—a strong gust of wind, for example, brushing the panels—is not out of the question, it is considered unlikely.

In the meantime, as long as InSight remains in touch, the team will continue to collect data. “We will continue to do scientific measurements for as long as possible,” Banerdt said. “We are at the mercy of Mars. The weather on Mars is not rain and snow; the weather on Mars is dust and wind.”

More about the mission

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory manages the InSight program of the NASA Science Mission Directorate. InSight is part of NASA’s Discovery Program, which is managed by the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Lockheed Martin Space of Denver has built the InSight spacecraft, including a cruise stage and lander, and supports the mission’s spacecraft operations.

A number of European partners, including the French National Center for Space Studies (CNES) and the German Aerospace Center (DLR), are supporting the InSight mission. The National Center for Space Studies presented the seismic experiment of the internal structure (SEIS) to NASA, with the principal investigator at the IPGP (Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris). Significant contributions to the Common Environmental Information System came from the IPGP; Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Germany; Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) in Switzerland; Imperial College London and Oxford University in the UK; and JPL. DLR provided the thermal flow and physical properties package (HP3), with significant contributions from the Space Research Center (CBK) of the Polish Academy of Sciences and Astronika in Poland. Spain’s Centro de Astrobiología (CAB) supplied temperature and wind sensors, and the Italian Space Agency (ASI) provided a passive reflector for the laser.

News Media Communication

Andrew Good
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.

[email protected]

Karen Fox / Alana Johnson
NASA Headquarters, Washington

[email protected] / [email protected]

Written by Pat Brennan

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