The stationary spacecraft captured the image on April 24 using its robotic arm, which will soon be placed in a final resting position called a “retirement pose” this month. To take a selfie, the hand must be moved several times and this will no longer be possible.
Due to the declining power supply, the mission will cease scientific operations by the end of the summer. Reveals the mysterious interior of Mars from landing in November 2018.
InSight solar panels are increasingly covered in red Martian dust, despite creative efforts by the Earth mission team. This accumulation will only get worse as Mars now enters winter, when more dust rises into the atmosphere.
These suspended particles reduce the sunlight needed to charge the solar panels that power InSight, which is currently working on an extended mission that was expected to last until December. The mission achieved its primary goals after the first two years on Mars.
The final selfie shows that the landing is covered with much more dust than it was in previous selfies from December 2018 and April 2019.
The aircraft went into safe mode on May 7, when its energy levels dropped, causing it to stop everything except its basic functions. The team expects this to happen more often in the future as dust levels increase.
The fixed floor can only collect one-tenth of the available power it had after landing on Mars in November 2018. When InSight first landed, it could produce about 5,000 watts-hours each day on Mars, the equivalent of that. . needed to power an electric oven for one hour and 40 minutes.
Now, the lander produces 500 watts-hours a day, enough to power an electric oven for just 10 minutes. If 25% of solar panels were cleaned, InSight would have sufficient power boost to continue. The spacecraft has seen many dust devils, or tornadoes, but none were close enough to clean the solar panels.
“We were hoping for a dust clearance as we have seen happen many times on Spirit and Opportunity rovers,” said Bruce Banerdt, lead researcher at InSight at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in a statement. “This is still possible, but the energy is low enough that our focus is on making the most of the science we can still collect.”
By the end of the summer, the team will turn off the seismometer, terminate scientific work and monitor what power levels remain on the ground. At the end of the year, the InSight mission will be completed.
The InSight team, however, will continue to hear about any possible communication from the spacecraft and determine if it could ever work again.
“Even when we start nearing the end of our mission, Mars still gives us some really amazing things to see,” Banerdt said.
The steady flow of InSight data aimed at scientists on Earth will stop when solar cells can no longer produce enough energy. But researchers will study InSight’s exploration for decades to learn as much as possible about our enigmatic planetary neighbor.