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InSight likely to shut down by the end of summer

Martian quake map as seen by InSight
Martian quake map as seen by InSight, adapted from this 2021
presentation [pdf]

According to the InSight science team, the Mars lander and its seismometer will likely shut down operations by the end of the summer due to lack of power.

“Towards the end of summer of ’22, we anticipate our seismometer will be turned off, not because we want to turn it off but unfortunately, we don’t have the energy to run it,” Garcia said. She said the team will use it intermittently after that as long as power is available, but by the end of the year the spacecraft is expected to fall silent.

The intermittent readings of the seismometer will be of extremely limited use, as it will then be pure luck whether it detects a quake, and any detection will not provide the true rate of quakes on Mars.

The loss of power is due to dust on the solar panels. The team had hoped a dust devil would come by periodically to blow the panels clean, as happened routinely with the Spirit and Opportunity rovers, but InSight has not been so lucky.

It appears the safe mode that occurred shortly after InSight detected its largest Mars quake yet on May 10th was very temporary, though right now the seismometer is essentially the only instrument they have power to run.

Overall, this mission has a very spotty history. Its launch was delayed two years when the French attempt to build the seismometer failed. The delay cost NASA’s planetary program $150 million, at a minimum.

Then lander’s second of two main instruments, a German experiment to dig down 16 feet to insert a heat sensor into the ground, failed when its digging tool, dubbed the mole, was unable to penetrate the alien Martian soil.

Fortunately, InSight’s prime instrument, the seismometer (finally completed by JPL) worked, giving us a first look into the structure of Mars’ interior as well as where earthquakes are found on its surface.

Conscious Choice cover

Now available in hardback and paperback as well as ebook!

 

From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

 
Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.

 

“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.

 

All editions are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all book vendors, with the ebook priced at $5.99 before discount. The ebook can also be purchased direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit, in which case you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.

 

Autographed printed copies are also available at discount directly from me (hardback $24.95; paperback $14.95; Shipping cost for either: $5.00). Just email me at zimmerman @ nasw dot org.

One comment

  • Col Beausabre

    “The team had hoped a dust devil would come by periodically to blow the panels clean, as happened routinely with the Spirit and Opportunity rovers, but InSight has not been so lucky.”

    “We don’t believe in miracles. We rely upon them.”

    How much money was saved on a billion dollar mission by not mounting a nice lightweight fan (I understand concerns about weight) and some plastic tubing to blow off the solar panels using the Martian atmosphere?

    “God helps those who help themselves”

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