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NASA’s InSight Mars lander

Context:

Recently, NASA’s InSight Mars lander account struck a sombre note and said the robot currently on Mars will be signing off soon, ending its nearly four-year-long journey to study the red planet’s early evolution.

Relevance:

GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Purpose of the InSight Lander
  2. Why is InSight shutting down?
  3. Why was the robot sent to Mars?

Purpose of the InSight Lander

  • The first was to understand how rocky planets formed and evolved, and study the interior structure and geological processes of Mars through its various layers, such as the core, the mantle and the crust.
  • Second, InSight was to figure out just how tectonically active Mars is today, and how often meteorites impact it. This included measuring marsquakes, and more than 1,300 quakes have been detected.

Why is InSight shutting down?

  • When InSight landed on Mars in 2018, its solar panels produced around 5,000 watt-hours on each Martian day, or sol.
  • Each Martian day is 40 minutes longer than a day on earth. Now, they’re producing roughly 500 watt-hours per sol.
  • The reduced power is because the panels’ capacity to receive energy naturally reduces over time.
  • There will be more dust in the air that would accumulate on the panels and therefore reduce the sunlight received – and the lander’s source of energy.
  • While earlier some of the dust was removed, the mission would need a more powerful dust-cleaning event to reverse this, such as very strong winds.
  • Because of the reduced power, NASA announced in May this year that the team would soon put the lander’s robotic arm in its resting position (called the “retirement pose”).

Why was the robot sent to Mars?

  • According to NASA, there hasn’t been an adequate exploration of processes underneath the Martian surface, responsible for shaping above-ground formations.
  • Additionally, Mars also allows for a more practical study of the bigger questions about the solar system in the form of a “perfect laboratory”.
  • In comparison to the other terrestrial planets, Mars is neither too big nor too small.
  • This means that it preserves the record of its formation and can give us insight into how the terrestrial planets formed.
  • It is the perfect laboratory from which to study the formation and evolution of rocky planets.

-Source: Indian Express


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