NASA’s Insight Mars lander dies after 4 years on Red Planet

NASA’s iconic Insight Mars lander has gone dark after four years of studying the Red Planet, the space agency has announced.

The lander’s power has been declining for months, and Nasa said earlier this week that InSight had not responded to communications from Earth.

“It is assumed that InSight may have reached the end of its operations,” NASA said in a statement on Sunday.

On Monday, the lander’s official Twitter account also posted an image of the planet’s rocky surface in what may be its final update.

“We don’t know what caused his energy to change; the last time the mission contacted the spacecraft was on December 15, 2022,” the US space agency added.

Since landing on Mars in November 2018, InSight – an acronym for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport – has provided valuable insight into several geological phenomena on Mars.

The stationary lander carried with it seismology and heat detection instruments to analyze the internal structure of Mars.

Days after landing on Mars, Insight captured the “haunting low rumble” of Martian winds in December 2018, and most recently, in May, detected the largest earthquake ever seen on Mars and any planet other than Earth.

Since landing on the red planet, Insight has recorded more than 1,300 marsquakes – the largest of them measuring around magnitude five.

Research based on data from Insight’s missions also found evidence in October that Mars’ crust is denser and more uniform than scientists previously thought, a breakthrough that may help better understand how the planet formed and evolved over time.

It also detected the first-ever seismic and sound waves generated on another planet by meteor impacts.

Analysis of how earthquakes resulting from these meteorite impacts passed through the planet offered unprecedented insight into the interior of Mars, and also shed more light on how rocky worlds, such that the Earth and its Moon are formed.

Nasa noted in a statement last month that data from the lander could “continue yielding discoveries for decades.”

During its time on the Red Planet, the lander also faced several challenges in carrying out its science missions, including in April last year when it went into “emergency hibernation” as its solar panels got covered in dust.

While the US space agency tried several innovative ways to clean dust from InSight’s solar panels, including deploying its motors to shake off the dust, many of its efforts were unsuccessful.

Some efforts, however, have succeeded in clearing the dust and helping Insight work on its extended missions, but on Sunday Nasa confirmed that the lander was not responding to communications from Earth.

The space agency added that it would continue to try to establish contact with InSight.

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