It appears that NASA’s InSight Mars lander has sent its final message from the Red Planet, tweeting a photo of its dust-covered seismometer along with a heartfelt parting message.
“My power is really low, so this may be the last image I can send,” the message said.
“Don’t worry about me, though,” it continued. “My time here has been both productive and serene.”
“If I can keep talking to my mission team, I will—but I’ll be signing off here soon,” it was announced. “Thanks for staying with me.”
The Mars lander, InSight, an acronym for “Interior Exploration Using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy, and Heat Transport,” landed in November 2018 to investigate the red planet’s interior and keep an eye out for any meteors.
A flat, featureless volcanic plain called Elysium Planitia was chosen as its landing location because precise seismic readings could be conducted there.
I made the most of my time listening intently as Mars shed some of its secrets, including detecting more than 1,300 quakes.
Read more science highlights: https://t.co/vy04a5yXPX
— NASA InSight (@NASAInSight) May 17, 2022
By the end of 2020, the lander had completed its major scientific objectives, but NASA ended up extending the mission for another two years.
However, due to its dependency on solar power and the frequent dust storms of Mars, the project could not be sustained for much longer.
During the lander’s journey, the NASA team on Earth controlled the @NASAInSight Twitter account, which has tweeted in the first person and amassed over 771,000 followers. Since its launch, it has been displaying “selfie” shots with the lander’s robotic arm.
Before losing more solar energy, I took some time to take in my surroundings and snapped my final selfie before I rest my arm and camera permanently in the stowed position.
— NASA InSight (@NASAInSight) May 24, 2022
At Mars’ mercy
Since the middle of the year, the InSight lander has been working at far below twenty percent of its initial generating capacity due to dust building on its solar panels. This prompted NASA to make an announcement last month that the mission would be coming to an end.
The space agency said InSight was unlikely to be functioning for more than “a few more weeks” after turning off all of the scientific instruments save the seismometer.
The mission’s principal investigator, Bruce Banerdt of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, announced, “We’re at Mars’s mercy. Weather on Mars is not rain and snow; weather on Mars is dust and wind.”
“We’ll keep making science measurements as long as we can,” Banerdt promised.
If InSight failed to contact the Mars Relay Network, a group of five spacecraft in orbit around Mars, for two consecutive communication sessions, NASA warned it would have to end the mission.
After that point, NASA’s Deep Space Network will continue to monitor the lander, but the space agency has communicated its intention not to use “heroic measures” to try to reconnect with it.
ForeSight, a full-scale engineering copy of InSight, is housed on Earth and allows scientists to practice deploying scientific equipment. It will be crated and stored “with loving care” once the mission is over, Dr. Banerdt said of ForeSight.
“It’s been a great tool, a great companion for us this whole mission,” he said.