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NASA begins countdown to the end of the Insight mission on Mars

NASA begins countdown to the end of the Insight mission on Mars

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But InSight, a robotic probe stationary on Mars, is steadily getting weaker as dust builds up on its solar panels.

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Mission managers predict that by late summer it will not have enough power to keep its machines running and that by the end of the year it will shut down.

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“It’s just because of the lack of power,” Cathia Zamora Garcia, deputy project scientist for the mission, said during a news conference on Tuesday.

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The spacecraft could be in luck if a dust demon — a miniature whirlwind swirling along the Martian Earth — passes and blows dust off the solar panels.

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Although several thousand dust demons were discovered in the area, none of them helped clean up InSight.

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“We’re not very optimistic given that three and a half years have passed and we haven’t seen one yet,” said Bruce Banerdt, principal investigator at InSight, “but it still could happen.”

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