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NASA’s Mars lander InSight transmits potential final image of the Red Planet as its power dwindles

NASA’s InSight Mars lander, which touched down on the Red Planet over four years ago, transmitted what may be its final image on Monday. 

“My power’s really low, so this may be the last image I can send. 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,” Insight’s 25-30 person team posted to the lander’s Twitter on Monday afternoon. “Thanks for staying with me.”

NASA will officially end the mission when the lander misses two communication attempts in a row with a spacecraft orbiting the planet. 

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InSight’s operations team started preparing for the lander’s end earlier this year, shutting down devices that require the most power and ensuring that data it has collected over the past four years is preserved. 

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Since it landed in November 2018, the lander has provided insight on Mars’ liquid core and the composition of its other interior layers. It has detected more than 1,300 quakes on the planet, including a magnitude 5 in May. 

“Finally, we can see Mars as a planet with layers, with different thicknesses, compositions,” Bruce Banerdt of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California said in a statement last month. “We’re starting to really tease out the details. Now it’s not just this enigma; it’s actually a living, breathing planet.”

The lander’s core mission was accomplished in its first two years. A pair of 7-foot wide solar panels initially produced about 5,000 watt-hours each sol, or Martian day, but were only producing about 500 watt-hours per sol last month as dust has accumulated. 

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