Place. The last selfie of Insight Mars, a sad farewell to a historic mission

One last picture for success. NASA’s Insight Mars mission is coming to an end. The module took its last selfie on April 24 after 1,211 days on the red planet. Covered in dust and sand, Insight will not last long. NASA is in her bed for the last, coming days. Since landing in 2018, the module has enabled many advances in knowledge of Mars.

Insight takes the pulse and temperature of Mars

When the probe was launched on May 5, 2018, it was a great day for NASA, the National Center for Space Studies (CNES) and their German counterpart (DLR). As part of the Discovery program, Insight (Internal Search using Seismic Investigation, Geodesy and Heat Transport, Or internal exploration of earthquakes, geodesy and heat flux) to study the structure of Mars for the first time. Until now, we only knew its surface. Insights will surely make it possible to discover what is hidden beneath

For this, the module is equipped with a seismometer, an instrument for measuring heat flow from the heart of the planet (called HP3) and a magnetometer. Simply put, Insight takes the pulse and temperature of Mars.

Arrived on Mars in November 2018, its initial mission will last two years. But like all modules and probes sent by NASA, its development has been made more sustainable. After all, the Voyager 1 probe launched in September 1977 continues to emit and leads us to unexpected discoveries in the universe.

The sound of earthquakes and winds

Unlike other machines, Insight does not move, some equipment is driven on the ground. HP3, however, is difficult to sink deep enough. After some effort, scientists, not knowing what is blocking, prefer not to try to go further.

Quickly, the module allows big progress. Insight records the first earthquake on Earth and … the sound of the wind on Mars. In early 2021, the mission was extended for two years. To “clean” the dust from the solar panel, the pronounced arm is reprogrammed to lift the sand and throw it on the panel, the wind helps to remove some dirt.

The sound of the wind on Mars

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Historical and unexpected information

Today, its legacy is impressive: more than 1,300 earthquakes have been analyzed – the last of which, on May 4, 2022, had a magnitude of 5 on the Richter scale and shook parts of the planet for 6 hours -; By far the most important weather information; And three geological layers have been studied (geological, mantle and core).

We now know that the crust is “thinner” than scientists thought (25 to 40 kilometers) and that it consists of three distinct layers. The core is molten and larger than expected (1,800 km radius). Thanks to Insight, we know that “light” elements are mixed with molten iron, reducing the melting point. This explains why the core is still molten even though it has cooled considerably since its formation.

The magnetometer reveals residues (or “ghosts”) of electrical and magnetic currents. Surprisingly, the magnetic signals appear to change over time, indicating that they depend on the solar wind interacting with the Martian atmosphere.

All of this data makes it possible to better understand the Red Planet and perhaps its potential for one-day port life.

Dusty, Insight “at Rest”

From now on, Insight displays the weight of these years of wind and sand exposure: occupying its arm cogs, and not allowing its solar panels to “clean up” which is covered in dust, and can’t produce enough energy. ‘Strength. The only hope is a very strong wind or a mini-tornado. Bruce Benardt, head of NASA’s Insight mission, explains: “We were expecting a clean slate, as has been the case with the Spirit and Opportunity rovers. It is still possible, but energy levels are so low that we are now focusing on recoverable scientific data. A

With a heavy heart, the researchers prepared the module for its final months. His hands will be placed in a “resting position” and most instruments will be on standby. Until this summer only seismometers will be on for a few hours a day. Insight will still be able to send some data or photos occasionally, but the batteries should be empty by December.

In February 2019, NASA sent a “Farewell Message” to the unresponsive Mars Rover Opportunity, a love song. I will see you, By Billy Holiday. Although about 60 million kilometers from Earth, Insight alone will not be extinguished on Earth.

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