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Good Mars weather lets NASA's power-starved InSight lander live a little longer - Space.com

Good Mars weather lets NASA's power-starved InSight lander live a little longer - Space.com

Good Mars weather lets NASA's power-starved InSight lander live a little longer - Space.com
Sep 22, 2022 1 min, 30 secs

NASA's InSight lander touched down on Mars in November 2018 with tools meant to help scientists see deep into the Red Planet.

InSight runs on sunlight and dust has covered its solar panels, leaving the lander able to generate just a tenth of the power it could harvest as a Martian newcomer.

"However, if we get a dust storm or anything like that, then it can be sooner," Chuck Scott, project manager for InSight at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, which manages the mission, told Space.com.

Related: NASA's Mars InSight lander snaps dusty 'final selfie' as power dwindles.

Plenty of Martian explorers have faced the same problem: Although the Perseverance and Curiosity rovers use nuclear power, their predecessors the twin Spirit and Opportunity rovers both battled dust buildup, and a dust storm ended the Opportunity mission.

"Since then, we have changed our operations a little bit and we have also had a bit of Mars weather that's lucky for us, because we haven't been having any big dust storms or anything," Scott said.

Now, InSight is entering a season during which scientists usually see some regional dust storms, which they thought would speed the lander's demise.

"We were kind of expecting that there would be some regional dust storms and that would cause a problem for us," Scott said.

"Every time there's a storm or something on Mars, it'll go down," Scott said.

The lander needs to make about 300 watt-hours each sol to keep the seismometer, communications and basic functions running, Scott said.

— NASA's InSight Mars lander: Amazing landing day photos.

— NASA's InSight Mars lander spotted from orbit, covered in dust.

"We are still getting quakes; we can still see things occuring in the seismometer," Scott said, noting that the lander caught a marsquake at the end of August.


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