Known as InSight (which stands for ‘Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport’), the spacecraft has provided scientists with a wealth of information over the years.
Its primary instrument – a seismometer known as the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (or SEIS) – is designed to measure seismic activity on Mars and it has certainly achieved that goal, having detected several quakes including a Magnitude 5 tremor (the largest so far) which was picked up very recently.
Unfortunately, however, the solar panels necessary to produce the electricity needed by the probe have become so covered in dust that it looks as though the mission’s days are now numbered.
The seismometer can continue to operate for a while, however other systems are being permanently powered down and within a few months the probe will be no longer able to function at all.
“[In July] we anticipate our seismometer to be turned off, not because we want to turn it off but unfortunately we don’t have the energy to run it,” said deputy project manager Kathya Zamora Garcia.
“At the end of the calendar year, we do anticipate having to conclude all InSight operations.”