NASA InSight landed in November 2018 to study the structure and seismic activity of Mars, working on solar energy from panels and stored in batteries, but during the operation of the device, there was a large layer of dust on the panels, and now a record dust storm can reduce energy production by a factor, putting the mission at risk.
"We are now at the bottom of the energy stage," noted Chuck Scott, the project manager of InSight at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. "The device may survive this storm, but the next one is unlikely."
InSight produced an average of 425 Wh per Martian day, which has now dropped to 275. It requires an average of 300 Wh to maintain the seismometer, communications and basic functions.
In early 2022, it was anticipated that the mission could end at the end of the summer, but the number of storms per season was less than projected, and mission personnel realized that one powerful storm was enough to complete InSight.
NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter took pictures of a large dust storm about 3,500 kilometres away from the landing machine, and electricity production remained stable for a while, but a few days later, InSight dramatically reduced energy production.
The mission ' s staff decided not to save energy, but to launch a seismometer to continue the collection of scientific data; recently, the device has rotated work and rest every 24 hours; this decision also means that, unlike many spacecraft, NASA will not send an InSight command to complete the mission; when the energy has run out, the landing vehicle will turn off itself.