Engineering 101

RIP InSight

NASA’s InSight mission has ended after more than four years of collecting unique science on Mars.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California eventually could no longer contact NASA’s InSight Mars lander. NASA had decided to declare the mission over if the lander missed two communication attempts. The last time InSight communicated with Earth was Dec. 15.

Short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, InSight’s mission was to study the deep interior of Mars. The lander data yielded details about Mars’ interior layers, the surprisingly strong remnants beneath the surface of its extinct magnetic dynamo, weather on this part of Mars, and 1,319 earthquakes.

The lander featured a self-hammering spike – nicknamed “the mole” – to dig 16 feet (5 meters) down, trailing a sensor-laden tether that would measure heat within the planet, enabling scientists to calculate how much energy was left over from Mars’ formation. The mole could not gain traction in the unexpectedly clumpy soil around InSight. It eventually buried its 16-inch (40-centimeter) probe just slightly below the surface, collecting valuable data on the physical and thermal properties of the Martian soil along the way.

JPL manages InSight for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. InSight is part of NASA’s Discovery Program, managed by the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Lockheed Martin Space in Denver built the InSight spacecraft, including its cruise stage and lander, and supports spacecraft operations for the mission.

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