NASA’s InSight Will Have Reduced Capability Until a Dust Devil Cleans off its Solar Panels

All eyes are on Mars this week, and, if we’re being honest, NASA’s InSight lander isn’t the star of the show right now. At the time of writing, we’re anxiously waiting to find out whether or not the Perseverance rover survives its fiery arrival at Mars. But Entry, Descent, and Landing (EDL) is just the first hazard that awaits robotic missions to the red planet. Mars exploration is a marathon, not a sprint, and while Perseverance is just getting started, InSight, which has been on the red planet for two years now, is approaching a tough leg of the race.

InSight’s nemesis: Martian dust. The same cruel villain that killed the Opportunity rover back in 2018.

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InSight is Going to Try and “Hear” Perseverance Land on Mars From 3,452 km Away

Now that the UAE’s Hope spacecraft and China’sTianwen-1 have successfully reached the Red Planet, next up is NASA’s Perseverance rover, set to land on February 18th.

Ten operational spacecraft are currently in orbit or on the surface of Mars, ready to welcome the new rover. But one spacecraft in particular, the InSight lander, will be listening closely for Perseverance’s dramatic entry, descent and landing – a.k.a. the Seven Minutes of Terror.

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NASA Has Given Up on Trying to Deploy InSight’s Mole

It’s always a sad day when a mission comes to an end. And it’s even sadder when the mission never really got going in the first place.

That’s where we’re at with NASA’s InSight lander. The entire mission isn’t over, but the so-called Mole, the instrument designed and built by Germany’s DLR, has been pronounced dead.

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You’re Going to Need a Bigger Drill. The Best Place for Life on Mars is Deep, Deep Underground

For decades, robotic missions have been exploring Mars to learn more about the planet’s geological and environmental history. Next year, the Perseverance rover will join in the hunt and be the first mission to send samples back to Earth and by the 2030s, the first crewed mission is expected to take place. All of these efforts are part of an ongoing effort to find evidence of past (and maybe even present) life on Mars.

According to a new study from Rutgers University-New Brunswick., the most likely place to find this evidence is located several kilometers beneath the surface. It is here (they argue) that water still exists in liquid form, which is likely the result of geothermal heating melting thick subsurface sheets of ice. This research could help resolve lingering questions like the faint young Sun paradox.

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InSight’s ‘Mole’ is Now Completely buried!

It’s been a long road for InSight’s Mole. InSight landed on Mars almost two years ago, in November 2018. While the lander’s other instruments are working fine and returning scientific data, the Mole has been struggling to hammer its way into the surface of the planet.

After much hard work and a lot of patience, the Mole has finally succeeded in burying itself all the way into the Marian regolith.

But the drama hasn’t concluded yet.

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Although InSight’s Mole is Completely Buried, it Might be Stuck Again

You’ve gotta hand it to NASA, and to the German Aerospace Center (DLR.) They’ve been struggling for over a year to get the InSight Lander’s Mole working. There’ve been setbacks, then progress, then more setbacks, as they try to get the Mole deep enough to do its job.

Now the Mole is finally buried completely in the Martian surface, but it might still be stuck.

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Finally! InSight’s Mole is Making Slow and Steady Progress

Personnel at NASA and the DLR have been working for months to get InSight’s Mole working. They’re at a disadvantage, since the average distance between Earth and Mars is about 225 million km (140 million miles.) They’ve tried a number of things to get the Mole into the ground, and they may finally be making some progress.

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Good News! The New Strategy of Using InSight’s Arm to Push the Mole Seems to be Making Progress.

There’s at least one small bit of good news in these challenging Covid-19 times. And it’s playing out on the surface of Mars. In a brief Tweet, NASA says that using InSight’s robotic arm to push the Mole into the ground is working, somewhat.

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Magnetic Fields Around Mars InSight are 10x Stronger than Scientists Expected

When NASA’s Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (Insight) lander set down on Mars in November of 2018, it began its two-year primary mission of studying Mars’ seismology and interior environment. And now, just over a year and a half later, the results of the lander’s first twelve months on the Martian surface have been released in a series of studies.

One of these studies, which was recently published in the journal Nature Geosciences, shared some rather interesting finds about magnetic fields on Mars. According to the research team behind it, the magnetic field within the crater where InSight’s landed is ten times stronger than expected. These findings could help scientists resolve key mysteries about Mars’ formation and subsequent evolution.

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