It can be the end of the red dusty line for NASA’s InSight lander. Because it has been silent on Mars for four years.
The lander’s power levels have been dwindling for months because of all the dust coating the lander’s solar panels. Ground controllers at California’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory were aware that the mission was coming to an end. But NASA reported that InSight did not respond to communications from Earth on Sunday.
“It is assumed that InSight has reached the end of its operations,” NASA said late Monday. NASA added that the spacecraft’s last communication was on Thursday.
But NASA will keep attempting to contact InSight.
InSight was landed on Mars in 2018. It was the first spacecraft to record a marsquake. With its French-built seismometer, it detected over 1,300 marsquakes. These marsquakes include several caused by meteoroid strikes. According to NASA, the most recent marsquake detected by InSight earlier this year shook the ground for at least six hours.
The seismometer readings shed light on the interior of Mars.
Last week, scientists announced that InSight had captured a Martian dust devil not only in images and also in sound. In 2021, the whirling column of dust happened to blow directly over the lander’s microphone.
But the lander’s other main instrument had nothing but problems.
A German digging device was sent to measure the temperature of Mars’ interior. But it never got deeper than a couple feet. It fell far short of the intended 16 feet. It was declared dead by NASA nearly two years ago.
InSight recently returned one final selfie, which NASA shared on Twitter on Monday.
NASA still has two active rovers on Mars. One is Curiosity, which has been exploring the planet’s surface since 2012. Another is Perseverance, which arrived earlier this year.
Perseverance is currently constructing a sample depot with the intention of leaving 10 tubes of rock cores on the Martian surface as a backup to samples on the rover itself. NASA intends to return some of these samples to Earth within a decade as part of its ongoing search for signs of ancient microscopic life on Mars.
Perseverance is also accompanied by Ingenuity, a mini helicopter. It recently completed its 37th flight, which gave it more than an hour of Martian flight time.