Nasa's first and only lander to detect 'Marsquakes' is about to die: Report

Published on Oct 30, 2022 11:29 AM IST

InSight lander is the first and only spacecraft to probe Martian earthquakes. It has gathered data on over 1,300 “marsquakes” since arriving on Mars.

InSight spacecraft's latest selfie showing it covered in dust from a storm. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)
InSight spacecraft's latest selfie showing it covered in dust from a storm. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)
By | Edited by Aryan Prakash

Nasa’s InSight Mars lander arrived on the red planet in November 2018 and sent findings which served scientists to delve deeper to determine the size and composition of the planet, is about to die.

According to a report published in Nature journal, the lander’s solar panels have been covered with dust from a recent Martian storm, obstructing much of the sunlight needed to recharge its batteries. In order to save energy, mission controllers are now intermittently operating the seismometer. The spacecraft is likely to stop responding to commands from Earth within a few weeks.

The rich legacy of InSight lander

It is the first and only spacecraft to probe Martian quakes.

It has gathered data on over 1,300 “Marsquakes” since arriving on Mars. The data has helped scientists to determine the size of the red planet's core and the thickness of its crust.

Researchers discovered last month that Mars’s mantle has more iron than the Earth’s thanks to data from five Marsquakes detected by it.

Scientists revealed on Thursday that the mission last year discovered seismic waves brought on by the largest meteorite strikes ever recorded on Mars. Researchers could learn about the characteristics of Mars’ crust thousands of kilometres away from InSight by following the seismic waves as they moved through the planet, and they were able to answer whether the spacecraft is in a geologically unusual area.

Illustrating the significance of these discoveries, Mark Panning, InSight’s project scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) said to the Journal, “Before the mission, I always showed all these cartoons of cut-in-half planets.” But now there is more concrete data. He adds, “Now the cartoon has moved from question marks and fuzzy boundaries to a real picture of what the Mars interior is. That was what we promised, and we did it.”

The future of seismometry on Mars

There is slight hope that the dust accumulated on the probe may get blown off by the Martian storms revitalizing the lander, but the chance is so faint that researchers are preparing themselves to bid adieu to the lander.

For sometime then, Mars will not have any probe sensing quakes as the European Space Agency’s ExoMars lander which is in collaboration with Russia is put off because of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war.

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