NASA has shared the final selfie snapped by its InSight Mars lander. The machine is gradually losing power as an increasing amount of martian dust covers its two 7-feet-wide solar arrays. It’s expected to go quiet toward the end of this year.
The selfie (below), which was taken on April 24, shows the lander completely covered in dust.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which has been overseeing InSight’s mission since it began in 2018, also tweeted a GIF (below) comprising a before/after sequence that clearly shows the severity of the situation.
A dusty self-portrait.@NASAInSight took what is likely to be its final selfie on April 24. In the GIF, you can see the spacecraft’s first selfie in December 2018 and its last one where it’s covered in Martian dust. https://t.co/gvCNyRPnzC pic.twitter.com/CcN2Qzg90d
— NASA JPL (@NASAJPL) May 24, 2022
“The arm needs to move several times in order to capture a full selfie,” JPL said in a message on its website, adding that as its dusty solar panels are producing less power, the team will “soon put the lander’s robotic arm in its resting position — called the “retirement pose” — for the last time in May of 2022.”
InSight brought the first seismometer to Mars, and during the mission it detected more than 1,300 marsquakes, including a recent one measured as the largest quake ever detected on another planet. Scientists have been using the gathered data to learn more about the interior of the red planet. InSight also includes a high-tech weather station, enabling scientists to make a very detailed record of the weather on Mars during its four seasons. You can learn about some of the mission’s discoveries in the video below. It also addresses the dust issue.
Despite a few hiccups along the way — for example, InSight’s heat probe failed to reach the targeted depth — and a major dust-related problem at the end, the mission has been deemed a success, and actually fulfilled its main mission goals within the first two years of arriving on the distant planet.
Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division, said recently that InSight had “transformed our understanding of the interiors of rocky planets and set the stage for future missions,” adding: “We can apply what we’ve learned about Mars’ inner structure to Earth, the moon, Venus, and even rocky planets in other solar systems.”