NASA’s InSight probe is getting ready for some changes. Winter is coming to Elysium Planitia, and the bold probe needs to be kept safe.
InSight deals with one of the toughest challenges so far: dust. The increasing dustiness of the probe’s solar panels and the Martian winter approaching can’t be ignored.
NASA engineers have now come up with a plan to protect InSight during winter on Mars and more.
Here is what you need to know.
Martian Winter, Dust and Other Challenges: InSight Will Survive
NASA developed the probe to be long-lasting no matter what. Scientists chose a big landing site in Elysium Planitia to avoid any dusty issues.
However, despite InSight tracking down many dust devils, not even one has been close enough to wipe the probe’s panels of dust. According to recent data, the probe’s solar arrays are now generating 27 % of their dust-free capacity.
The Red Planet will soon welcome something called aphelion, meaning the planet will be the farthest away from the Sun.
The sunlight on Mars will also become even weaker, lowering power when InSight most need its heaters to stay on. So, what is there left to do?
Chuck Scott is the InSight’s project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. He released a statement about the probe’s safety.
“As part of our extended-mission planning, we developed an operations strategy to keep InSight sage through the winter so that we can resume science operations as solar intensity increases.”
Soon, InSight engineers will be carefully choosing which tools and devices need to be turned off every day to preserve more power. The probe’s heaters and energy-intensive activities, including radio communications, represent a priority.
The probe will also get ready this week to extend its robotic arm over the panels. NASA needs a check-up of the dust coating to better pulse the motors and see if the wind blows the dust away.