Due to dust, solar panels of NASA’s InSight Mars lander will run out of electricity

Dust on Solar Panel: Because of the dust on its solar panels, the InSight lander is losing power. NASA announced on May 17 that it will continue to use the spacecraft’s seismometer to record marsquakes until the power runs out, which is expected in July. Then, until the end of the year, flight controllers will keep an eye on InSight before calling it off.

“On the team, there hasn’t been too much doom and gloom. “We’re actually still focused on operating the spacecraft,” said Bruce Banerdt, lead scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

InSight has detected over 1,300 marsquakes since landing on Mars in 2018, the largest of which was a magnitude 5 two weeks ago. 

Second Mars Lander to be destroyed due to dust on solar panels

It will be NASA’s second Mars lander to perish in the dust on solar panels: the first was destroyed in 2003. The opportunity was destroyed in 2018 by a global dust storm. In the case of InSight, i’s been a slow accumulation of dust, especially over the last year.

The rovers Curiosity and Perseverance, two additional NASA spacecraft on the Martian surface, are still operational thanks to nuclear power. According to planetary science director Lori Glaze, the space agency may rethink solar power for Mars in the future, or at the very least experiment with new panel-clearing technology or target less-stormy seasons.

InSight is currently generating one-tenth of the electricity it did when it first arrived from the sun. According to Deputy Project Manager Kathya Zamora Garcia, the lander had enough power to run an electric oven for one hour and 40 minutes at first, but now it can only run for 10 minutes.

The InSight team expected this much dust to accumulate but thought that a gust of wind or dust devil would blow it away. Despite thousands of whirlwinds coming close, this has yet to happen.

“None of them have hit us dead on yet,” Banerdt told reporters.

The mole, another science device, was scheduled to burrow 16 feet (5 meters) down to determine Mars’ core temperature. However, due to the unusual nature of the red mud, the German digger never reached deeper than a few feet (a half-meter), and it was declared dead at the beginning of last year. 

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