NASA’s InSight Mars lander plunges into Red Planet dust storm
One of NASA’s Mars robots is in safe mode to save power while a dust storm blocks its solar panels from charging.
The InSight lander, designed to study the interior of Mars, stable in safe mode, which the spacecraft began on January 7, the agency said in a Update mission status published on Tuesday (January 11). The lander made safe contact with ground controllers on Monday (January 10) despite temporary measures to weather a dust storm in the area.
“Its power is steady and while low, is unlikely to drain the lander’s batteries,” NASA officials wrote. For now, this stabilizing power could mean InSight won’t face a long-term collapse like it did. Opportunity to explore Mars, went silent in 2018 during a series of global dust storms that eventually drained the rover’s battery.
Mars InSight in pictures: NASA’s Red Planet Core Probe Mission
InSight, which landed on the Red Planet in 2018, was operating at reduced capacity due to the normal dust accumulation on its two solar panels. Engineers have reduced the amount of dust on a control panel somewhat by 2021 by using a spoon on the lander’s robotic arm to blow dust with the wind, but “these operations are becoming increasingly difficult difficult as energy availability decreases,” NASA officials wrote in the new update.
Indeed, reduced power is one of the biggest threats to the mission and could end InSight operations by 2022, agency said last year. The threat comes from a combination of the planet reaching its greatest distance from the sun last year and the seasonal cycles of dust in the atmosphere, mission personnel said at the time.
However, projections suggest that InSight will have enough power for the time being to survive this particular dust event, although the agency says it is hoping to gain more control over the lander in the future. the coming days to save its energy.
“InSight engineers hope they can command the lander to exit safe mode next week,” NASA said. “This will allow for more flexibility in operating the lander, as communication, which requires a relatively large amount of power, is restricted to safe mode to conserve battery life.”
Opportunity and its companions, Morale, has benefited from periodic dust-clearing events caused by windy conditions on Mars. But such an event has yet to happen with InSight, even if the lander has detected several passing vortexes, according to NASA.
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https://www.space.com/nasa-insight-lander-safe-mode-dust-storm NASA’s InSight Mars lander plunges into Red Planet dust storm