Images show that the dead robot on Mars is still doing useful work for NASA


NASA’s InSight Lander on Mars ran out of power 18 months ago. But it still provides useful information to the space agency thanks to high-resolution images taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

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NASA’s InSight lander It may be relaxing after its retirement on Mars, but the robot continues to provide the space agency with valuable information.

On November 26, 2018, the lander began its Mars mission: collecting data about the planet’s structure, its seismic activity, and the frequency of meteorites. Then the robot ran out of power in December 2022 and sent back a final image. He was declared “dead” in news reports including from New York times And The Independent.

Recently, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter examined its retired fellow and sent back a photo of the InSight lander on the planet’s surface. Although the lander can’t send back images, its mere presence on the Red Planet continues to provide insights (no pun intended).

“By studying InSight’s landing site over time, scientists can see how quickly dust accumulates, which helps estimate the age of other surface disturbances,” NASA said in a May 6 post on its website. NASA Mars account On X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.

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What happened to NASA’s InSight lander?

After its launch in May 2018, vision — short for “Interior Exploration Using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy, and Heat Transport” — traveled about 300 million miles over 6 1/2 months to Mars from Earth.

The lander had a robotic arm (with a built-in camera) that it used to deploy a temperature probe and seismometer to collect data.

It captured images of meteor strikes and more than 1,300 Martian earthquakes during its mission, according to the State of California. Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

As its mission progressed, dust accumulated on its solar panels. However, the robot outlasted its original mission by two Earth years. Space.com reported.

Just before the robot ran out of power, NASA posted a farewell message from InSight on social media: “I’m really low on power, so this may be the last image I can send. But don’t worry about me: my time here has been both productive and uneventful, if I can keep it going.” In speaking with my mission team, I’ll do that – but I’ll sign off here soon. Thanks for sticking with me.

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft also serves as the workhorse It lasted more than twice its expected lifespan Since its launch in 2005, it is expected to continue for several more years.

As its name suggests, it orbits Mars and takes high-resolution images, including images of a valley on Mars that could reach from New York City to San Francisco if placed in the United States.

Orbiter footage of the InSight robot on Mars helps ensure its mate’s contributions continue.

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“InSight has more than lived up to its name,” he said. JPL Director Lori Lishin At the time of his retirement. “Yes, it is sad to say goodbye, but InSight’s legacy will live on, and it will continue to be inspiring and rewarding.”

This appears to still be true today.

Contributing: Nathalie Nyssa-Alund and Eric Lagata.

Follow Mike Snyder on X and Threads: @mikesnider & com.micegsnider.

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