Mars selfies have a unique image genre. They make space enthusiasts feel linked to those distant explorers on Mars. However, recently NASA’s InSight lander has returned what is likely to be its final self-portrait, a farewell glimpse at a brave machine in its waning moments.
InSight’s solar panels have become increasingly covered in Martian dust, despite the mission’s best efforts. When Mars enters winter, additional dust is released into the atmosphere, causing the accumulation to intensify. The quantity of sunlight required to charge the solar panels that power InSight is reduced by these dust particles.
NASA JPL shared a GIF on Monday that danced between InSight’s first selfie in December 2018 and its most current one. It demonstrates how much dust is presently layering the lander. It was described as “what is likely to be its final selfie” by JPL.
The image is a mosaic of photos acquired by a camera mounted on the lander’s robotic arm on April 24. It shows that the lander is covered with far more dust than it was in previous selfies from December 2018 and April 2019.
This month, the arm will be placed in a “retirement pose.”
“Before losing more solar energy, I took some time to take in my surroundings and snapped my final selfie before I rest my arm and camera permanently in the stowed position,” the InSight account tweeted on Tuesday.
When the lander’s energy levels dropped dramatically on May 7, it went into safe mode, shutting down all but the most essential functions.
InSight could generate roughly 5,000 watt-hours per day when it first arrived on Mars. It presently produces 500 watt-hours of electricity every day.
The team plans to turn off the seismometer, stop science operations, and assess what power levels are left on the lander by the end of the summer. The InSight mission will come to a conclusion by the end of the year.
The final farewell to a mission you’ve been following for years is quite hard. However, InSight has fulfilled its promise of unveiling Mars’ core. Aside from the fact that not everything went as planned, the mission’s data on marsquakes and the development of the red planet’s interior has proven beneficial for research.
“InSight has transformed our understanding of the interiors of rocky planets and set the stage for future missions,” director of Nasa’s Planetary Science Division Lori Glaze said in a statement.
“We can apply what we’ve learned about Mars’ inner structure to Earth, the Moon, Venus, and even rocky planets in other solar systems.”