InSight cleaned his solar panel by depositing more dust on it

InSight cleaned his solar panel by depositing more dust on it

InSight’s solar panels are covered in dust on the surface of Mars. NASA attempted a somewhat surprising maneuver to get the robot to regain some power. It has succeeded.

InSight has finally succeeded in getting rid of the dust that has accumulated on one of the solar panels, allowing it to gain more power. NASA Hinge On June 3, 2021, how she did it so the Mars lander could delay the moment it had to turn off its science instruments.

As usual, NASA told the story in first person on Twitter : « With solar panels collecting dust, why am I putting more dirt on me? My team asked me to try something that might sound crazy, but it worked! This cleaned some dust off the solar panels, giving me a little extra power. ».

InSight maneuver to clean the panels. // Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Gain about 30 watts/hour on Sol

In February, NASA announced thatTemporarily reduced InSight mission activity to Mars. The robot has been on the Red Planet since 2018 and its activities have extended beyond its primary mission, which is set to last two years. However, the amount of dust that has settled on InSight’s solar panels over time is so great that it has been found necessary to reduce the operation of the landing gear instruments – in order to maintain adequate power. By rolling out InSight at Elysium Planitia, NASA thought it was taking advantage of swirls of dust to clean the device’s panels, but there hasn’t been a hiccup near the robot since the panels were deployed.

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That’s why NASA tried out this seemingly somewhat surprising technology: On May 22 (the mission’s Mars 884th day) InSight’s robotic arm was used to dump some sand near a solar panel, in order to help wind carry it. A small amount of sand settled with her on the plate. The maneuver might seem risky, because it eventually consisted of depositing more dust on the solar panels, but it has proven effective: NASA estimates it has gained about 30 watt-hours per Earth (that is, for each Martian day).

Mars near apogee: What are the consequences of Insight?

This is an encouraging development, especially since Mars is currently approaching Mars Avilia, that is, from the point farthest from the sun in its path around the star. calendar : ” This means less sunlight reaches the spacecraft’s dust-covered solar panels, reducing their energy production “, summarizes NASA in its press release. The space agency predicted the consequences of Apogee, which stated that InSight could operate without its scientific instruments. Thus, energy is reserved for the robot’s radiators and all of its essential components.

With this surge in power, the space agency estimates that the power outage for InSight’s instruments will be delayed by a few weeks. Another attempt to dust off the same solar panels is scheduled for Saturday, June 5.

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