After 4 years on Mars, NASA Insight rover prepares to sign off

Rowegie Abanto, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 20 2022 02:54 PM

NASA Insight announces that it is preparing to sign off. NASA Insight/Twitter
NASA Insight announces that it is preparing to sign off. NASA Insight/Twitter

MANILA — After over 4 years of exploration on Mars, NASA's Insight rover is now preparing to sign off.

"My power's really low," the robotic lander tweeted early Tuesday morning (Manila time), attaching what might be the "last image" it could send back to Earth. It was launched on May 5, 2018, and landed on the Red Planet after 5 months during that year.

"If I can keep talking to my mission team, I will – but I’ll be signing off here soon. Thanks for staying with me," it added.

On November 1, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration said it was preparing to bid farewell to the spacecraft. 

"The day is approaching when NASA's Mars InSight lander will fall silent, ending its history-making mission to reveal secrets of the Red Planet's interior," NASA said on its website. 

Insight — short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy, and Heat Transport — is the first outer space robotic explorer to probe the "inner space" of Mars.

According to NASA, studying the Red Planet's interior structure can help answer the early formation of rocky planets in the inner solar system. 

"It is the perfect laboratory from which to study the formation and evolution of rocky planets," it said.

In the announcement, NASA noted Insight's power generation "continues to decline" because of the thickening of windblown dust on its solar panels.

NASA said that it has taken steps to extend InSight's diminishing power.

"Don’t worry about me though: my time here has been both productive and serene," InSight also said in the tweet announcing its forthcoming expiration.

During its 4-year investigation of Mars, Insight has provided unprecedented discoveries, including seismic detections on another planet.

On October 2022, scientists who studied Mars revealed that a meteorite hit its surface and triggered magnitude 4 tremors, which were detected by the InSight spacecraft.

Researchers estimated that the meteorite itself would have measured between 16 to 39 feet across. 

In 2019, NASA released 2 audio clips of seismic activity on Mars recorded by the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS), carried by NASA's InSight.

The audio — a low, rumbling noise — has been speeded up and processed to be audible through headphones.

One quake was magnitude 3.7 and the other was magnitude 3.3.

—with reports from Agence France-Presse