Nasa bid farewell to Insight after more than four years of service.
The mission controller announced the disappearance of the March lander on Wednesday after two failed attempts to contact the craft.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) team said the cause of death was the craft’s batteries running out of power – a state engineer calls a “dead bus”.
The lander last communicated with Earth on December 15, but Mission Control had previously decided to declare the mission complete if Insight has missed two communication attempts.
The official Insight Twitter account posted what was believed to be the last photo taken by the lander on Mars on Tuesday.
NASA shared a photo from Insight on Tuesday (pictured), saying it could be the last image of the Mars lander because its batteries weren’t charging
Insight has detected more than 1,300 Marsquakes with its French-made seismometer, including several caused by meteoroid strikes, since it landed on Mars in 2018.
Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, said in a statement: ‘I watched the launch and landing of this mission, and while saying goodbye to a spacecraft is always sad, the fascinating science conducted by InSight is cause for celebration.
“Seismic data alone offers considerable information not only about Mars, but also about other rocky bodies, including Earth.”
Insight’s final image shows its seismometer, the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS), a round domed instrument.
SEIS sat on the Martian surface to take its “pulse,” or seismic vibrations, and provide insight into the planet’s internal activity.
InSight also carries two engineering cameras – one mounted on the arm (called IDC) and one on the front of the lander (called ICC), which took this final image.
Earlier this summer, the lander had so little energy left that the mission turned off Insight’s other science instruments to keep the seismometer running.
NASA even disabled the fault protection system which would otherwise automatically shut down the seismometer if the system detected that the lander’s power output was dangerously low.
Insight was tasked with studying the deep interior of Mars to find out how all celestial bodies with rocky surfaces formed, including those on Earth and the Moon.
It was only supposed to run for two years, but its remit was extended to four years after it was found to have “produced outstanding science” by an independent review board.
Even from the start of the mission, it was clear to NASA personnel that it would not last as long as some of the agency’s other projects.
It was known that its solar panels would eventually become covered in Martian dust, making it difficult to generate electricity.
NASA said equipping it with a mechanism that removed dust “would have added cost, mass and complexity” that could have hindered its success.
The US space agency said the scientific results and findings obtained by Insight “have answered many questions and posed new ones for future explorers”.
NASA shared the final image of the lander as the sun set on Mars
Unfortunately, wind-blown Martian dust has gradually accumulated on Insight’s solar panels, making it difficult to generate electricity. The lander is pictured above in December 2018
Insight landed near Mars’ equator on the western side of a flat expanse of lava, Elysium Planitia – and shortly after tweeted its first image
These include the detection of the first earthquakes on another planet, the most recent of which was in May this year.
This earthquake had an estimated magnitude of 5, with vibrations reverberating around the planet for at least six hours.
Insight also showed that the planet’s crust is thinner than expected – about 15 to 25 miles (25 to 40 kilometers) thick, comprising three inner layers.
Laurie Leshin, Director of JPL, which manages the mission, said: “InSight has more than lived up to its name.
“As a scientist who has spent a career studying Mars, it was a pleasure to see what the lander achieved, thanks to a whole team of people around the world who helped make this mission a success.
“Yes, it’s sad to say goodbye, but InSight’s legacy will live on, informing and inspiring.”
The best scientific results of Insight
First earthquake detected on another planet
Insight has achieved the first-ever earthquake detection on the Red Planet.
Its onboard seismometer has measured more than 1,300 seismic events.
The most recent, in May 2022, had an estimated magnitude of 5, with vibrations reverberating around the planet for at least six hours.
New information about the three main layers of Mars
Insight has gathered new information about the three main layers of Mars – the crust, mantle and core.
Scientists have found that the crust beneath InSight is thinner than expected – about 15 to 25 miles (25 to 40 kilometers) thick, comprising three inner layers.
Found magnetic “ghosts” from an ancient electric field
Insight carried the first-ever magnetometer to the Martian surface, enabling it to detect magnetic signals.
Early in its history, Mars had electrical currents flowing through its core of molten metal as the planet rapidly cooled.
This global magnetic field has disappeared but has left ghosts: traces of this old “frozen” field in the rocks of the crust.
InSight’s magnetometer found that ancient rocks between 200 feet (61 meters) and several kilometers underground are strongly magnetized.
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