NASA’s Mars Lander Is Believed To Be Dying After A Huge Dust Storm

According to scientists of NASA, the InSight Mars lander is found to be on its last legs as the accumulation of even more dust on the solar panels of the craft during a recent storm is drastically reducing its power levels.

SpaceNews reports that although the InSight lander has recuperated following a huge dust storm in January on Mars, the eventual-yet-significant accrual of detritus or dust on the solar panels of the craft is extremely reducing its power levels. Such a reduction is leading NASA to expect it to be out of commission by the end of 2022.

The principal InSight Investigator Bruce Banerdt mentioned the intensity of the storm during the meeting about the Mars Mission. The report notes that on January 7, the dust storm came on “very rapidly” and without “any early warning”. As InSight managed to exist in the “safe mode”, it entered during the storm but unfortunately, the resultant accumulation of the dust on its solar arrays is, according to Banerdt, ultimately going to be what shuts it down for good.

It has already been predicted by Benardt that the dust on the InSight’s solar arrays – a problem that other NASA’s Mars equipment does not seem to experience, would lead to the lander’s demise by spring 2022 as they block the rays required to boost the machine. That data has been pushed back to the end of the year.

“Our current projections indicate that the energy will drop below that required to operate the payload in the May/June time frame and probably below survivability some time near the end of the year,” the InSight investigator said during the most recent meeting of the Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group, per SpaceNews.

NASA has been having the InSight do an ingenious exercise in which it scoops up dirt from Mars and allows it to gradually drift over its solar panels, which in turn cleans off some of the caked-up dust. According to Benardt, this thing sounds like a “crazy thing to do”, but it has reportedly worked, temporarily increasing energy output by one to three percent on each of the several times the lander has been instructed to do it.

A request to extend the lander’s mission has been submitted to NASA by the InSight team. This mission is funded through the end of 2022, which would rely on a “cleaning event” extending its lifespan. Moreover, Benardt told “SpaceNews” that his group is “not betting our mortgage on it.”

Benardt said, “We don’t have a crystal ball, but our best estimate is that we probably won’t be getting very much science data past the summer.”

He further added, “The spacecraft is probably not going to last more than about a year.”

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