A robot on Mars ended its successful science mission with a poignant social media post. InSight, a lander that’s been on the red planet since November 2018, signed off with one final message below. Its solar panel are covered in Martian dust and it cannot recharge or send more messages back to Earth. The goal of this NASA robot was to track marsquakes and learn about the planet’s molten core over the course of two years. The last time NASA was able to communicate with InSight was December 15, 2022, just over four years from its landing. Farewell and congratulations on a job well done, InSight! We won’t worry about you, but we’ll think of you fondly.
The lander also carried names to the red planet. The supporters that list represents are likely not the only ones sad to see InSight sign off for the last time. Its well-deserved retirement is a bittersweet occasion for the science team. It’s also not the first time an anthropomorphized NASA robot has made us sad. Back in 2018, the rover Opportunity signed off with a last message of: “my battery is low and it is getting dark.” That machine designed for a 90-day mission operated for nearly 15 years. And then there’s the Curiosity rover, which sang “Happy Birthday” to itself back in 2013. But InSight’s final message really does hit hard.
InSight stands for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport. The various probes and measuring equipment recorded marsquakes and weather changes over the years. The information about tremors helps scientists understand Mars’ interior, including the planet’s mantle and crust.
While it’s sad to see InSight sign off, the Perseverance rover and Ingenuity helicopter are still working hard on the surface of the Mars. The news, which we saw thanks to Kotaku, comes as NASA plans more missions to the red planet. The agency plans to return samples from Perseverance and the Artemis missions to the Moon act as training to land the first people on Mars.
Melissa is Nerdist’s science & technology staff writer. She also moderates “science of” panels at conventions and co-hosts Star Warsologies, a podcast about science and Star Wars. Follow her on Twitter @melissatruth.