NASA InSight rover nearing the end of scientific life, but work is just beginning – Press Telegram

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Since landing on Mars in late 2018, NASA’s InSight Mars spacecraft has paved the way for pioneering discoveries that will be studied for decades, according to a group of researchers leading an interplanetary expedition. But the rover is gradually losing power, forcing scientists to prepare for the sunset of their mission sometime this summer.

Use of an advanced set of tools connected to InSight – abbreviated to study the interior through seismic surveys, surveying and heat transport – Heads of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory spent the last year on Mars, equivalent to two Earth years, exploring the interior of the planet and geological activities to learn more about the formation and evolution of the red planet.

However, by December this year, InSight is expected to witness the latest of more than 1,300 marine earthquakes – the so-called earthquake on Mars – that were detected in 1,200 days on Martian land.

Fortunately, Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division at NASA’s Washington headquarters, explained Tuesday, May 17, that data already collected by scientists allows researchers to accurately measure Mars’ weather pattern, composition of its planetary structure and planetary remnants. ancient magnetic field.

“The InSight mission was truly an incredible mission for us, and it gave us an idea of ​​Mars that we could not get from any other spacecraft in our NASA navy,” Glaze said during call with your colleagues, media and viewers from around the world.

“And it doesn’t just tell us about Mars,” Glaise added, “but it expands our understanding of planetary science and helps us think differently about other rocky planets throughout the solar system and beyond.”

The first world

This month alone, the InSight Rover seismometer rocked a magnitude of 5, making it the largest earthquake ever observed on another planet, and stressing that the Red Planet still has a lot to show the observer team.

Unfortunately, a strong earthquake occurs when Mars enters winter, at a time when the air is more dusty and shrinking hours of available sunlight, researchers say, creating a problem for two seven-foot-wide solar panels tasked with powering the rover. .

InSight solar panels produced about 5,000 watt-hours every Martian day, or salt, after the spacecraft arrived in November 2018. But by the spring of 2022, enough dust had settled on the panel that they produced only about 500 watt-hours each sol. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

When InSight first landed on Martian land, the rover had the opportunity to power a conventional home oven for 100 minutes, on Tuesday led analogs by InSight Deputy Project Manager Katya Zamora Garcia.

“Right now, we can probably run this for about 10 minutes maximum,” Zamora Garcia said. “So it will give you a good understanding of how much energy has decreased.”

Thanks a team of ingenious minds at JPLHowever, team leaders have repeatedly found ways to lift the weight of the Martian world from solar panels, using a robotic arm to tilt the device, allowing the seismometer to continue making its first discoveries.

Travel

Worked on landing a rover on Mars for more than a decade InSight chief researcher Bruce Banerdt has said he feels a personal connection to the rover with whom he shares a birthday.

The NASA InSight team enjoyed this Mars-shaped cake on the first anniversary of the spacecraft’s landing on November 26, 2018.  The cake was complete with its inner layers, like the Red Planet.  Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech
The NASA InSight team enjoyed this Mars-shaped cake on the first anniversary of the spacecraft’s landing on November 26, 2018. The cake was complete with its inner layers – like the Red Planet. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

And while he didn’t have much time to think about space travel, as finding creative solutions to the electricity problem is a full-time job, Banerdt assured the public that he is proud of the legacy that InSight leaves behind.

“InSight is the first mission to illuminate the interior of Mars and show us what the rest of Mars looks like,” Banerdt said, noting that he hoped the mission would continue if the dust devil found his way near the rover. After all, the mission had already exceeded the proposed duration, even though Mars ’climate did not always want to cooperate with available rover technology.

But so is life in space, according to Banerdt, who likened the construction of a rover to buying a car.

“If you are on such a mission, it is a compromise,” he said. “I’d like to have an top Audi or something like that,” complete with sand wipers or an InSight continuous power generator.

“But my budgets are more in the Volkswagen range,” joked Banerdt. “And, you know, if we had invested more money in solar panels, we would have had less to invest in scientific instruments, so we tried to find the right balance.”

Whatever happens, excited Banerdt added on Tuesday, scientists will be very busy in the coming months, disassembling models that for the first time in history reflect the core, mantle and crust of Mars.

This infographic shows how InSight uses seismometers and earthquakes to study the inner layers of Mars. Seismic signals from earthquakes change as they pass through different types of materials; seismologists can “read” seismogram clues to study the properties of the planet’s crust, mantle, and core. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

Others will focus on brainstorming in the future to keep solar panels and rovers free of Martian dust.

“So scientists will be very busy even for probably six months after the spacecraft itself stops working,” Banerdt said. “But this is just the beginning,” as the data will be available to the entire scientific community.

And he is not the only one hoping that the work done by researchers today will lead on more missions tomorrow.

“We have made incredible strides in understanding the internal affairs of Mars, which are unlikely to improve in decades,” Glaze said. “So if you look at the sunset from InSight, we’ll think about the sunset of the spacecraft, but not until the sunset of future science.”

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