The InSight science team today released its weekly update on the lander’s ability to generate power from its dust-covered solar panels, I have charted the new numbers, through August 21, 2022, on the graph to the right. From the update:
InSight was generating an average of 400 watt-hours of energy per Martian day, or sol. The tau, or level of dust cover in the atmosphere, was estimated at .88 (typical tau levels outside of dust season range from 0.6-0.7).
For the fourth straight week the daily power level remained steady, not dropping as predicted by engineers to a point in August that the mission would end. As it appears the seismometer can function when the panels produce 400 watt-hours per day, the lander is thus holding its own instead of shutting down.
That the amount of dust in the atmosphere increased slightly is both good and bad news. The good news: Even with slightly more dust, InSight’s power levels did not drop. The bad news: There is still plenty of dust in the air that can settle on the solar panels and further degrade their ability to generate electricity.
InSight’s future is thus a day-to-day thing, though it appears at this moment that it can likely continue to gather earthquake data for another week.
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Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space
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