The mission team chose to run its seismometer longer than planned, even though the lander will run out of power sooner as a result.
As the power available to NASA’s InSight Mars lander dwindles day by day, the spacecraft team has revised the mission schedule to maximize the science it can conduct. The lander was due to automatically shut down the seismometer – InSight’s last operational science instrument – by the end of June to conserve energy, surviving on whatever power its dust-laden solar panels can generate until around December. .
Instead, the team now plans to program the lander so that the seismometer can run longer, possibly until late August or early September. This will drain the lander’s batteries sooner and also cause the spacecraft to black out at that time, but it could allow the seismometer to detect further marsquakes.
“InSight is not done telling us about Mars yet,” said Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division in Washington. “We are going to get all the scientific information possible before the lander completes its operations.”
The InSight team will be available to answer your questions directly on June 28 at 3 p.m. EDT (noon PDT) during a live event on YouTube. Questions can be asked using the hashtag #AskNASA.
InSight (short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport) is on an extended mission after achieving its science objectives. The lander has detected more than 1,300 marsquakes since it landed on Mars in 2018, providing information that has allowed scientists to measure the depth and composition of Mars’ crust, mantle and core. Along with its other instruments, InSight recorded invaluable meteorological data, studied the ground below the lander, and studied remnants of Mars’ ancient magnetic field.
All instruments except the seismometer have already been turned off. Like other Mars spacecraft, InSight has a failure protection system that automatically enters “safe mode” in threatening situations and shuts down all but the most essential functions, allowing engineers to assess the situation. . Low power and temperatures that exceed predetermined limits can both trigger safe mode.
To allow the seismometer to continue operating for as long as possible, the mission team disables InSight’s fault protection system. While this allows the instrument to operate longer, it leaves the lander unprotected against sudden and unexpected events that ground controllers would not have time to respond to.
“The goal is to get science to the point where InSight can’t work at all, rather than conserving power and running the lander without any science benefit,” said Chuck Scott, InSight project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California.
Regular updates on the power of InSight and observations from mission team members will appear at blogs.nasa.gov/insight.
The InSight team will also be available to answer your questions directly on June 28 at 3 p.m. EDT (noon PDT) during a live event on YouTube. Questions can be asked using the hashtag #AskNASA.
Learn more about the mission
JPL manages InSight for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. InSight is part of NASA’s Discovery program, operated by the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Lockheed Martin Space in Denver built the InSight spacecraft, including its cruiser stage and lander, and is supporting spacecraft operations for the mission.
Several European partners, including the French National Center for Space Studies (CNES) and the German Aerospace Center (DLR), support the InSight mission. CNES provided the SEIS (Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure) instrument to NASA, with the principal investigator at IPGP (Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris). Important contributions to SEIS have come from the IPGP; the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Germany; the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH Zurich) in Switzerland; Imperial College London and the University of Oxford in the UK; and JPL. DLR provided the Heat Flow and Physical Properties (HP3) instrument, with major contributions from the Space Research Center (CBK) of the Polish Academy of Sciences and Astronika in Poland. The Spanish Centro de Astrobiología (CAB) provided the temperature and wind sensors.
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.