NASA Retires InSight Mars Lander Mission After Years of Science

This artist’s concept shows the InSight lander, its sensors, cameras, and instruments. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Launched in 2018, NASA’s Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) lander has been active for the last four years, documenting marsquakes and asteroid impacts on Mars to characterize the planet’s internal structure. However, the mission team has now declared the mission over after a week of radio silence from the lander starting on December 15, 2022. This is the latest martian scientific instrument retirement following that of the MER-B Rover Opportunity in 2018.

The InSight mission marked a return to in-situ data collection from a stationary probe, rather than a rover, for the first time since NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander in 2008. InSight focused on determining the interior structure of Mars using thermal measurements taken in the shallow crust and seismic measurements collected by the seismometer. Over the course of the mission, the seismometer detected over 1,300 marsquakes, including one late last year caused by a meteorite impact that displaced large chunks of ice across the surface. Another primary tool onboard was a thermal probe known as “the mole.” The mole was a heat flow probe intended to be driven approximately five meters into the surface to measure temperature gradients within the martian crust. Unfortunately, the soil where InSight landed had mechanical properties significantly different than predicted, and the team could only drill slightly below the surface. Despite this setback, the mole could still collect desired thermal data, and the information gained regarding soil properties will help future missions better prepare for the environmental challenges presented on Mars.

InSight was led by an international team, including NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the German Aerospace Center (DLR), France’s Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES), and many other agencies. READ MORE