It’s lived on two planets.
It’s spent years in the solar system.
It’s watched rockets launch into outer space from Earth.
And now the NASA robot InSight’s work on Mars appears to have come to an end.
With its power low, InSight on Monday tweeted what may be its last image ever – a selfie shared by NASA via Twitter.
Yes, it’s just a machine. They multiply the work of humans in the exploration of the solar system and eventually stop working. But somebody at NASA had the clever idea to semi-humanize what appears to be InSight’s final days.
Instead of the space agency issuing a press release simply reporting its mechanical explorer stopped working, someone behind InSight’s social media account posted this:
“My power’s really low, so this may be the last image I can send. Don’t worry about me though: my time here has been both productive and serene. If I can keep talking to my mission team, I will – but I’ll be signing off here soon. Thanks for staying with me.”
NASA reported the lander’s power levels have dwindled for months due to dust coating on its solar panels. While ground controllers at California’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory knew the end was near, they did not expect InSight to fall silent so soon.
On Monday, NASA reported InSight did not respond to communications from Earth on Sunday.
“It’s assumed InSight may have reached the end of its operations,” NASA reported, adding that its last communication was nearly a week ago. “It’s unknown what prompted the change in its energy.”
Just in case
The journey to Mars took 6.5 months across 484 million km (301 million miles) for a touchdown on Nov. 26, 2018.
The machine gave us one of the most thorough looks at Mars humans have seen, according to NASA scientists. It was the first robotic explorer to study in depth the “inner space” of Mars: its crust, mantle, and core.
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InSight detected more than 1,300 marsquakes with its French-built seismometer, including several caused by meteoroid strikes. The most recent marsquake sensed by InSight, earlier this year, left the ground shaking for at least six hours, according to NASA.
The seismometer readings also shed light on Mars’ interior.
Just last week, scientists revealed that InSight scored another first, capturing a Martian dust devil not just in pictures, but sound. In a stroke of luck, the whirling column of dust blew directly over the lander in 2021 when its microphone was on.
Regardless of the robot’s lack of response, NASA said its team will keep trying to contact InSight. Just in case.
Natalie Neysa Alund covers trending news for USA TODAY. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @nataliealund.
Story Credit: usatoday.com