NASA’s InSight gets a few extra weeks of Mars science

NASA's InSight gets a few extra weeks of science on Mars

NASA’s InSight lander took this last selfie on April 24, 2022. The landing gear is covered in much more dust than it was in its first selfie in December 2018 or in its second selfie in March and April 2019. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

The mission team has chosen to work with its seismometer longer than previously planned, although as a result the lander will run out sooner.

As NASA’s InSight Mars launch vehicle dwindles with each passing day, the spacecraft team has reviewed the mission’s schedule to maximize the science they can conduct. The lander is expected to automatically turn off the seismometer – InSight’s latest operational science tool – by the end of June to save energy by surviving the power its dust-laden solar panels can generate by about December.

Instead, the team now plans to program the lander so that the seismometer can run longer, perhaps until late August or early September. This will drain the spacecraft’s batteries sooner and deplete the spacecraft’s power at this time, but this could allow the seismometer to detect additional earthquakes.

“InSight has not yet completed our training on Mars,” said Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division in Washington. “We will get to the last scientific information we can before the lander completes its operations.”

InSight (short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport) is on an expanded mission once it has achieved its scientific goals. The lander has detected more than 1,300 earthquakes since landing on Mars in 2018, providing information that allowed scientists to measure the depth and composition of the crust, mantle and core of Mars. With his other instruments, InSight has recorded invaluable meteorological data, studied the soil beneath the lander, and studied remnants of Mars’ ancient magnetic field.

NASA's InSight gets a few extra weeks of Mars science

NASA’s InSight Mars lander uses a seismometer to study the inner layers of Mars. Earthquake seismic signals change as they pass through different types of materials; seismologists can “read” the curves of the seismogram to study the properties of the planet’s crust, mantle, and core. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

All instruments except the seismometer are now off. Like other Mars spacecraft, InSight has a fault protection system that automatically triggers “safe mode” in threatening situations and shuts down all but its most important functions, allowing engineers to assess the situation. Low power and temperatures that go beyond predetermined limits can trigger safe mode.

To allow the seismometer to continue to operate for as long as possible, the mission team turned off InSight’s fault protection system. Although this will allow the tool to run longer, it leaves the landing module unprotected from sudden, unexpected events to which ground controllers will not have time to respond.

“The goal is to get scientific data to the point where InSight can’t work at all, instead of saving energy and operating the lander without scientific benefit,” said Chuck Scott, InSight’s project manager at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. NASA in Southern California. .


NASA’s InSight is still hunting down earthquakes as power levels dwindle


More info:
Regular updates on InSight power and observations from mission team members will be available. blogs.nasa.gov/insight.

Quote: NASA’s InSight Receives Several Extra Weeks of Mars Science (2022, June 21), retrieved June 21, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-06-nasa-insight-extra-weeks -mars.html

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