NASA’s InSight mission comes to an end (science news).

NASA’s InSight mission, which aimed to study the deep interior of Mars, has officially come to an end after more than four years of gathering unique scientific data on the Red Planet. Mission controllers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California were unable to make contact with the lander after two consecutive attempts, leading them to conclude that the spacecraft’s solar-powered batteries have run out of energy.

NASA had previously decided that the mission would be declared over if the lander missed two communication attempts, and while the agency will continue to listen for a signal, it is considered unlikely that it will receive one at this point.

The InSight lander, which stands for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, was able to gather a wealth of information about Mars’ interior layers, its extinct magnetic dynamo, and the weather and seismic activity on the planet. Its highly sensitive seismometer, along with daily monitoring by the French space agency Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES) and the Marsquake Service managed by ETH Zurich, detected 1,319 marsquakes, including those caused by meteoroid impacts. Such data helps scientists determine the age of the planet’s surface and study its crust, mantle, and core.

One of the primary instruments on the InSight lander was a self-hammering spike, nicknamed “the mole,” which was intended to dig 16 feet (5 meters) down and trail a sensor-laden tether to measure the heat within the planet and calculate how much energy was left over from Mars’ formation.

However, the mole struggled to gain traction in the unexpectedly clumpy soil around the lander and only managed to bury its 16-inch (40-centimeter) probe slightly below the surface. Despite this, the mission was able to gather valuable data on the physical and thermal properties of the Martian soil, which will be useful for future human or robotic missions that attempt to dig underground.

Overall, the InSight mission was a success, with the lander gathering a wealth of data about the interior of Mars and the seismic activity on the planet. While it is sad to see the mission come to an end, the scientific insights gained from it will continue to inform and inspire future research on Mars and beyond.

NASA's InSight mission comes to an end (science news).
NASA’s InSight mission comes to an end (science news).

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