NASA’s Mars InSight publishes its (probably) final tweet • The Register

In a year where AI started making art and conversation, the question of whether a robot can make you cry with a tweet seems very fitting.

NASA’s Mars InSight probe may have answered “yes” to that question.

When The registry As previously reported, the probe landed in 2018 and has since done an excellent job of studying the Red Planet’s interior and geology.

But the probe – which is a lander, not a rover, and so doesn’t move – has no way of shaking off dust that has accumulated on its solar panels and greatly reduced their efficiency. This sad fact left the probe without power to operate its full suite of instruments and made communication with Earth difficult.

In early November, NASA warned that the mission had entered its final weeks.

On Tuesday US time, the lander confirmed it would not be long before the world it inhabited.

At least NASA didn’t drop the message on Christmas.

While the above tweet is sad, there is much to celebrate. The lander worked much longer than planned and, in addition to a lot of data, sent home 6,668 images.

What is likely the penultimate image taken of the spacecraft was taken on December 11 and shows some markings in the Martian soil.

The last one, located in the tweet above, shows “the area in front of the lander with its lander-mounted Instrument Context Camera (ICC).”

For context, the first image of the lander is below.

The first image from NASA InSight

First image from Mars InSight – Click to enlarge

While InSight will soon cease operations, NASA has other working robots on the red planet. The Curiosity and Perseverance rovers are still rolling while seven operational artificial satellites orbit the world.

At least two future robotic missions are already planned – the ExoMars rover and a sample return mission to collect the results of Perseverance – and more are on the drawing board.

Some of these far-flung missions will see human crews flying to Mars, and some of these may be delivered by Elon Musk’s SpaceX. But for that, we might have to figure out how to cover Elon in so much dust that, like Mars InSight, he stops tweeting. ® NASA’s Mars InSight publishes its (probably) final tweet • The Register

Rick Schindler

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