NASA's InSight lander has taken what may be its last photograph of Mars, approaching its inevitable death with peaceful acceptance.
"My power’s really low, so this may be the last image I can send," InSight's official Twitter account posted on Monday, writing from the lander's point of view. "Don’t worry about me though: my time here has been both productive and serene. If I can keep talking to my mission team, I will – but I’ll be signing off here soon. Thanks for staying with me."
A wide-angle photo taken by InSight was attached to the tweet, showing scientific instruments resting on Mars' surface.
The tweet has been liked almost 275,000 times and retweeted over 40,000 times at time of writing. If there's one thing that will activate a human's empathy response, it's a lonely little guy spending years working for others and trying their best before dying alone 140 million miles from home.
InSight's impending demise shouldn't be a surprise to anyone, as scientists have been warning us it was coming since May. At the time the lander's power level was just one tenth of what it had been at launch, as Mars' red dust had covered InSight's solar panels and greatly reduced its functionality. It's reasonable to assume InSight's power has likely dipped even further in the months since.
NASA launched the Mars lander in 2018, on a mission that was initially expected to span two years. Instead the Little Lander That Could has continued to work for twice that length, sending back photographs and collecting data about Mars' interior for four years.
The lander's explorations haven't been without problems. InSight's drill got stuck for eight months in 2019, before giving out in 2021 without ever completing its mission of drilling 16 feet into Mars' soil. Still, the InSight lander has kept working until it physically can't anymore, just like a senior citizen without a 401K.
Despite the issues with its drill, Insight's mission can generally be regarded as a success. The lander detected over 1,300 Martian earthquakes, gathered information on weather conditions, investigated Mars' liquid core, and helped researchers map the planet's interior geology.
Now InSight will die alone, finally breaking down after years of endless labour. Relatable.
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