NASA’s $ 800 million Mars lander is in an energy crisis.
InSight, which landed in the Martian plains called Elysium Planitia in 2018, detected more than 500 Mars tremors, felt more than 10,000 dust monsters passed, and began measuring the planet’s core.
But in recent months, InSight has been fighting for its life as the Red Planet’s unpredictable weather threatens its robots.
Unlike other sites where NASA has sent probes and landings, including the new Perseverance rover and Mars helicopters, the gust of wind has yet to clear Elysium Planitia.
These winds are called A “cleaning event” to blow red Mars dust off NASA’s robot solar panels. Without their help, thick dust had accumulated on InSight and it was struggling to absorb sunlight.
Above: InSight Lander’s camera captured a photo of a dust-covered solar panel on Feb. 14.
InSight’s solar panels produced just 27 percent of the energy in February, when winter arrived Elysium Planitia.
So NASA decided to put the spacecraft into “hibernation mode”, shutting down tools each day. Soon the robot will shut down all operations that are not necessary to survive.
By pausing scientific operations, landers should be able to save enough energy to keep their systems warm through the chilly Mars nights when temperatures drop to minus-130 degrees Fahrenheit.
“The amount of energy available in the coming months will be driven by the weather,” InSight project manager Chuck Scott said in a statement.
Nearly halfway through the expected hibernation period, InSight is still in good shape. But there is a risk of a potentially fatal power outage. If Lander’s battery dies, it may not recover.
“We have hope that we can bring it back to life, especially if it hasn’t been asleep or died for a long time,” InSight Principal Investigator Bruce Banerdt told Insider. That is boring “
The agency expects to begin full-scale InSight operations after Mars rotates back toward the sun in July. If able to survive this Martian winter, landers can listen to earthquakes and track the 2022 weather.
InSight’s power shortage contributed to NASA’s decision to abandon the earthly “mole” in January. The excavated probe was supposed to measure temperatures deep in the Martian crust, which is important information for studying the history of the planet and its internal structure.
Now, scientists are missing out more information as pedestrians turn off their tools. Its measurements of Martian weather are becoming scarce and in the coming months it will stop listening to vibrations.
Banerdt said he feared the pedestrians would miss the big shake. But it is worth keeping the robot alive. If InSight’s batteries die, he added: “It’s a nice zombie spaceship,” which means it’s programmed to charge and start again when the sun goes down.
“The problem in that situation is that in the meantime the spacecraft is very cold, and this is happening in the coldest time of the year for spacecraft,” Banerdt said. So cold “
Banerdt suspects that is what happened to the Spirit and Opportunity rovers, the two run out of energy on the Martian surface and are unable to recharge, he hopes InSight never dies.
“Right now, our forecast, our forecast is that we should be able to go through the lowest point and come out on the other side,” Banerdt said.
However, a strange dust storm over the next four or five months could knock the scales off by piling up dirt on InSight’s solar panels – that’s what happened to the prospect. But fortunately, it’s not dust storm season.
“We think we are quite good. But Mars is unpredictable, we have no way of knowing exactly what will happen, ”Banerdt said.
This article was published by Business Insider.
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