NASA set to lose contact with Mars InSight spacecraft after four years

This may be the last image ever sent by NASA’s Mars InSight spacecraft.

After a four-year mission to the Red Planet, the robotic lander – which broke the first “selfie” ever taken on Mars – is going out.

Heavy windblown dust coated InSight’s solar panels, with Nasa expecting to lose contact with the probe soon.

The US space agency posted the news on the craft’s Twitter page, saying, “My power is really low so this might be the last image I can send.

“Don’t worry about me though: my time here has been both productive and peaceful.

“If I can keep talking to my mission team, I will – but I’ll be signing here soon. Thanks for sticking with me.”

NASA announced the £630million InSight project 10 years ago as a follow-up to the success of its Curiosity rover.

The InSight lander’s goal was to find out how Mars formed, with the aim of giving scientists a better understanding of how rocky bodies like Earth were created.

Prior to that, the spacecraft had to successfully complete the 300 million mile journey to Mars before enduring “seven minutes of terror” to come back to the surface.

Only 40% of missions to the Red Planet made it through the thin atmosphere safely.

A combination of a heat shield, parachute and retro rockets helped slow InSight from 13,000 mph to 5 mph in just six minutes to allow it to land on Elysium Planitia, a featureless plain just to the north of the location of the Curiosity rover.

Once deployed, the craft drove a temperature probe five meters into the surface to measure the heat coming from the planet’s core.

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Five months after landfall, InSight’s earthquake monitor registered a faint rumble. NASA scientists concluded that it came from inside the planet, calling it “Marsquake”.

One of InSight’s main achievements was to establish that the Red Planet is indeed seismically active, recording more than 1,300 earthquakes.

The recording launched a new area of ​​research of “Martian seismology”, NASA said, which could help learn more about the formation of rocky planets.

He also measured the seismic waves generated by meteor impacts, revealed the thickness of the planet’s outer crust, the size and density of its inner core, and the structure of the mantle that lies between the two.

But there was also time for fun. The craft took the first-ever “selfie” taken on Mars, using a camera attached to its robotic arm to send a photo all the way to Earth.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) near Los Angeles will continue to listen for a signal from the lander, just in case.

But hearing from InSight again is unlikely, experts say.

The stationary three-legged probe last communicated with Earth on December 15.

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