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InSight’s ‘final selfie’ on Mars, via NASA
InSight’s ‘final selfie’ shows its solar panels covered in Mars dustCourtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech

Goodnight sweet prince: NASA’s InSight spacecraft is dying on Mars

‘My power’s really low... Hope I’ve done you proud’

My power’s really low,” reads a December 19 tweet from NASA’s InSight lander. “So this may be the last image I can send.” It reads like a tragic send-off for the spacecraft, which landed on Mars back in November 2018, on a historic mission to uncover the secrets of the Red Planet’s core. But InSight seems to have made peace with its demise.

“Don’t worry about me though: my time here has been both productive and serene,” the tweet continues. “If I can keep talking to my mission team, I will – but I’ll be signing off here soon. Thanks for staying with me.”

Over the last four years, the solar-powered InSight lander – equipped with a hammer and an earthquake monitor – has measured marsquakes for the first time, taking in over 1,300 seismic events. In May this year, it recorded the biggest in its short history, at a magnitude of 4.7. Its data has also helped to formulate an image of what Mars’ looks like on the inside, shedding light on its liquid core and cosmic history.

According to NASA, the spacecraft’s power generation system is now in decline due to “windblown dust” obscuring its solar panels. On November 2, the space agency predicted that its lifecycle would come to an end within a few weeks. It is survived by two NASA Mars rovers named Curiosity and Perseverance, which continue to capture stunning images and groundbreaking audio from the surface of the fourth rock from the sun.

“I’ve been lucky enough to live on two planets,” InSight reminisced last month, when the darkness began to creep in. “Four years ago, I arrived safely at the second one, to the delight of my family back on the first. Thanks to my team for sending me on this journey of discovery. Hope I’ve done you proud.”

You have, InSight lander, you have. RIP.

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