According to the initial report of NASA’s InSight Mars spacecraft is on its knees in an energy crisis Inside man.
At $ 800 million, the robotic lander was initially touched in a Martian plane called Elysium Planitia in 2018, and during its lifetime it discovered more than 500 earthquakes on Mars, launched a study of the Red Planet’s core to new depths and observed the passage. of more than 10,000 dust devils.
However, this long list of scientific breakthroughs could end abruptly, as the relentless cold of Mars weather could halt all operations permanently.
At the time of writing, the InSight is in hibernation mode, while NASA engineers are working to ensure that they do not lose what is left of its precious life.
7;s InSight can withstand the Martian winter and charge
The InSight landing area is unique. Called Elysium Planitia, it lacks the powerful gusts of wind that NASA’s Perseverance rover enjoys. Gusts of wind are also called “cleansing events” because they blow the accumulating Martian dust from the solar panels of NASA robots. Without this natural wind, dust accumulates in a thick, sun-blocking layer – and this happened with InSight, leaving it virtually unable to absorb sunlight to generate more energy.
In February, InSight solar panels generated about 27% of their total energy capacity – then comes winter at Elysium Planitia. That’s why NASA deliberately ordered InSight to go into “hibernation mode,” which shuts down various instruments every day. But soon the robot will be forced to turn off all functions unnecessary for survival.
However, there is hope. By shutting down all scientific operations, the InSight must be able to save enough power to maintain a warm environment so that its systems can withstand the deadly cold nights of Mars – when temperatures drop to negative 130 ° F (-90 ° C).
“The amount of energy available over the next few months will really be determined by the weather,” Insight project manager Chuck Scott said in a statement. We are almost halfway through the planned period of robot hibernation, but although InSight seems ready for work for now, the risk of potentially fatal power loss does not diminish in the least. If the robot’s batteries die, it could lead to the death of the fearless lander.
“We will hopefully be able to bring him back to life, especially if he has not been asleep or dead for a long time,” said InSight lead researcher Bruce Banerdt in Inside man report. “But that would be a delusional situation.” NASA plans to restart full InSight operations after the Red Planet approached the sun in July this year. If it escapes during the torturous winter time on Mars, the robotic landing party can continue to hear about earthquakes and study the weather until 2022.
An accidental dust storm on Mars could lead to the death of NASA’s InSight
InSight’s lack of power influenced NASA’s decision to abandon the “mole” of the lander this January. It is designed to cut into the surface and measure temperatures deep in the crust of Mars – data extremely necessary for understanding the deep history of the Red Planet, in addition to its internal structure. But scientists need to give access to more data until the landing switches off its instruments – weather measurements are becoming rare and earthquake signals are expected to stop next month or so.
Banderdt thins the lander, it may miss some large ones, but it’s better to keep the whole lander than to sacrifice all future measurements for just one. If or when InSight loses battery power, the scientist explained, “it’s a good zombie spaceship” – which means it will actively recharge and restart once it has access to sunlight.
“The problem with this scenario is that in the meantime, the spacecraft is very, very cold,” Banderd added. “And it happens during the coldest part of the year for the spacecraft. Much of the electronics are quite delicate.”
“And unfortunately, it’s very likely that something will be damaged by the cold.”
As signs point to doom and gloom for NASA’s InSight lander, it could get worse. If an accidental dust storm flares up over the next four or five months, even more dust can accumulate on InSight’s solar panels. Luckily for the robot, this is not a dust storm season. “We think we’re pretty good, but Mars is unpredictable,” Banerd added. “We never know exactly what will happen.”