The four-year journey of NASA's InSight Mars lander has ended after the space agency was unable to establish contact, believing the spacecraft's solar power-generated batteries had run out of energy.
NASA said Tuesday mission controllers at the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California were unable to contact the lander after two straight attempts, which it previously determined would be the variable used to declare the mission over.
The agency said it will continue to listen for a signal from the lander, but it is unlikely to hear from it again. The last time InSight communicated with Earth was Dec. 15.
Short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, the InSight lander was stationary for its more than 1,400 days on Mars since landing in November 2018. Its mission was to collect data on the planet's crust, mantle and core. It also collected data on weather and seismic activity.
"I watched the launch and landing of this mission; and while saying goodbye to a spacecraft is always sad, the fascinating science InSight conducted is cause for celebration," Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington, said in a statement. "The seismic data alone from this Discovery Program mission offers tremendous insights not just into Mars but other rocky bodies, including Earth."
NASA said the lander's seismometer detected 1,319 earthquakes, including those caused by meteoroid impacts. It was the last science instrument that remained powered because dust accumulated on the lander's two solar panels that were each seven feet in diameter, gradually reducing its energy. The mission was supposed to last only two years but was twice extended by NASA.
"InSight has more than lived up to its name. As a scientist who's spent a career studying Mars, it's been a thrill to see what the lander has achieved, thanks to an entire team of people across the globe who helped make this mission a success," said Laurie Leshin, director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "Yes, it's sad to say goodbye; but InSight's legacy will live on, informing and inspiring."
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