InSight Mars Lander is in “Turmoil” and has gone into the Emergency Hibernation Mode

The Mars lander worth $800 million is experiencing energy turmoil. InSight, which landed in Elysium Planitia plain on Mars in the year 2018, has observed over 500 Mars quakes, felt over 10,000 dust devils fly by, and begun measuring the planet’s centre. However, InSight has been struggling for its survival for the last few months since the red planet’s erratic weather has threatened to suffocate the robot.  Unlike other places where NASA has sent landers and rovers, such as the landing site for the current Perseverance rover as well as its Mars helicopter, Elysium Planitia has been spared from strong winds.

These winds, known as “cleaning activities,” are used to clear red Martian dust from NASA’s robots’ solar panels. InSight has generated a dense coating of dust without their assistance, and it is unable to retain sunshine. In February, as winter arrived in Elysium Planitia, InSight’s solar panels were generating just 27% of their energy potential. As a result, NASA agreed to bring the lander into “hibernation mode,” turning off various instruments each day. The robot would soon switch off all tasks that aren’t important to its existence.

The lander ought to be able to conserve enough power to hold its systems warm throughout the frigid Martian winters, when temperatures will drop to about negative 130 degrees Fahrenheit, by interrupting its scientific operations. InSight’s project manager, Chuck Scott, stated in a statement that “the amount of power accessible during the next few months would only be dictated by the conditions.” InSight is still very much in good shape, almost halfway into its planned hibernation cycle, but the threat of a possibly fatal power outage is still there. It’s possible that the lander would never recover if its batteries die.

“We’d be optimistic that we’d be ready to keep it alive, particularly if it hasn’t been unconscious or dead for a long period,” InSight’s principal investigator Bruce Banerdt informed Insider. “However, it will be a dangerous scenario.” After Mars swings back into the sun in July, NASA intends InSight to resume complete operations. If the lander survives the Martian winter, it will be able to continue listening for earthquakes and observing weather until 2022.

The lander’s power shortage influenced NASA’s intention to leave InSight’s “mole” in January. The temperature deeper in the Martian crust was expected to be measured by the burrowing probe – vital evidence in analyzing the planet’s origin and internal structure. As the lander’s instruments are turned off, scientists are losing ever more results. Its Mars environmental measurements have become sparse, and it will cease listening for quakes in the next month or so. Banerdt is concerned that the lander will skip any major quakes, but he believes it is worth keeping the robot intact. “It’s a nice zombie spaceship,” he said, referring to InSight’s ability to refresh as well as start-up again until the sun comes out.

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