NASA on Wednesday said goodbye to the InSight lander that spent four years exploring the interior of Mars.
The US space agency said mission control was unable to contact the spacecraft in two successive attempts, leading to the conclusion that its solar-powered batteries had run out.
“InSight may be retiring, but its legacy – and its findings from the deep interior of Mars – will live on.” NASA said.
The space agency said it would continue to listen for a signal from the lander, which last contacted Earth a week ago, but that is considered unlikely after months of Martian dust accumulated on its two solar panels, reducing its power.
Calm down little lander ❤ @NASAInSightIts mission ended after more than four years of detecting earthquakes, meteor impacts and unique science on Mars. Congratulations – and thanks – to the team that made these groundbreaking discoveries possible. https://t.co/MCRzWYFSMd pic.twitter.com/GJkVI88CWi
— NASA JPL (@NASAJPL) December 21, 2022
“We’ve thought of InSight as our friend and colleague on Mars for the past four years, so it’s hard to say goodbye,” said Bruce Banerdt, the mission’s principal investigator at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.
“But she earned her well-deserved retirement.”
InSight was one of four missions currently underway on the Red Planet – along with the US rovers Perseverance and Curiosity and China’s Zhurong.
It arrived on Mars in November 2018 to study the planet’s interior, and its seismometer, built in France, paved the way for major advances.
Seismic waves, which vary according to the materials they pass through, provide a picture of the planet’s interior.
For example, scientists were able to confirm that the core of Mars is liquid and determine the thickness of the Martian crust – less dense than previously thought and likely composed of three layers.
The spacecraft provided details of Martian weather and a lot of earthquake activity.
Its highly sensitive seismometer detected 1,319 tremors, some of which were caused by meteor impacts.
“With InSight, seismology was the focus of a mission beyond Earth for the first time since the Apollo missions, when astronauts brought seismometers to the Moon,” said Philippe Lognonne of the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris.
“We got new roads.”
NASA was able to extend the aircraft’s mission earlier this year by using the robotic arm and a small scoop to gently remove dust from solar panels.
However, not all of InSight’s science work has gone smoothly, such as when a spike nicknamed “the mole” had trouble burrowing beneath the surface to measure the planet’s temperature due to the composition of the soil where the robot landed.
The probe, provided by the German Aerospace Center, eventually buried slightly below the surface and provided valuable data on the physical and thermal properties of the Martian soil, NASA said.
© Agence France-Presse