I can see clearly now…there’s dust on Mars!

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Comparative images from NASA’s InSight Mars lander from Sol 10 to Sol 578 show that the spacecraft is quite dusty.

Robotic arm-mounted, Instrument Deployment Camera (IDC) images taken on December 7, 2018, Sol 10 and recent July 12, 2020, Sol 578 photos reveal the coating of Mars dust.

InSight landed on the Red Planet on November 26, 2018.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Power decrease

“They do look dusty, don’t they! It was a little jolting to see the new images, although I shouldn’t really have been surprised,” said Bruce Banerdt, Principal Investigator for the InSight Mission to Mars at Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

“We have been monitoring the output from the arrays continuously since the beginning of the mission, and the power decrease has been pretty consistent with our model predictions,” Banerdt told Inside Outer Space.”

InSight’s first full selfie on Mars comprised of 11 photos stitched together to make this mosaic, created on December 6, 2018 (Sol 10).
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Cleaning event?

Banerdt said the InSight team is always hoping for a cleaning event, as was the experience on numerous occasions by earlier Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, but so far InSight has not experienced one.

“Even so, we have a pretty hefty energy survival margin with the current array conditions,” Banerdt added.

“Our models of dust accumulation predict that we can easily last through our prime mission, and should be able to last through at least an additional Mars year under a normal range of weather conditions, although we have tighter and tighter energy margins as the arrays get less efficient due to dust coverage,” Banerdt said.

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