NASA's $800 million-dollar Mars lander killed by dust in just 4 years

NASA has announced that its $800 million-dollar InSight Lander is slowly being killed by Mars dust covering its solar panels.

1 minute & 33 seconds read time

NASA has announced a new timeline update for its $800 million-dollar InSight lander that has recently experienced a decently large Mars dust storm.

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NASA explains that on January 7, the InSight lander went into safe mode as a regional dust storm rolled into the area its stationed within. On January 10, the InSight team was able to reconnect with the lander and found its power was holding steady but was quite low. Even before the most recent dust storm, martian dust has been accumulating on the lander's solar panels, reducing the overall power supply of the lander.

Dust storms can cause issues in two ways; dust accumulation on the solar panels, and reducing the amount of sunlight that can reach the solar panels. According to the Mars InSight mission website, the InSight team devised a way to reduce the amount of dust on the solar panels, and it involved using the landers robotic arm to scoop up dust and drop it upwind of the solar arrays.

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The idea behind this method is that the dust granules will collide with the array and loosen accumulated dust. NASA reports that using this method, the team was able to gain "several boosts of energy during 2021, but these activities become increasingly difficult as available energy decreases."

Bruce Banerdt, principal investigator for the InSight mission, said during the Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group (MEPAG) on February 3, "Our current projections indicate that the energy will drop below that required to operate the payload in the May/June time frame and probably below survivability some time near the end of the year."

"InSight landed on Mars on November 26, 2018, to study the inner structure of the planet, including its crust, mantle and core. The spacecraft achieved its science objectives before its prime mission ended a year ago. NASA then extended the mission for up to two years, to December 2022, based on the recommendation of an independent review panel composed of experts with backgrounds in science, operations and mission management," writes NASA.

Jak joined the TweakTown team in 2017 and has since reviewed 100s of new tech products and kept us informed daily on the latest science, space, and artificial intelligence news. Jak's love for science, space, and technology, and, more specifically, PC gaming, began at 10 years old. It was the day his dad showed him how to play Age of Empires on an old Compaq PC. Ever since that day, Jak fell in love with games and the progression of the technology industry in all its forms. Instead of typical FPS, Jak holds a very special spot in his heart for RTS games.

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