NASA’s InSight rover conserves energy as winter mud covers photo voltaic panels
NASA has announced that their InSight rover will save electricity for the foreseeable future. The reason for this is the winter season on Mars and the large amount of dust it raised. As with other rovers on the Red Planet, InSight uses solar panels to extract energy from the sun – and those same solar panels are currently covered in dust, significantly reducing the amount of energy they can access.
NASA’s InSight rover has been extended for another two years, which means it will continue to collect data and explore Mars until 2022. However, Mars is currently in the winter months, which means it is farthest from the Sun.
The rover’s access to sunlight has decreased as dust covers the solar panels, making it more difficult for the rover to extract energy from the reduced ambient sunlight. At this point in time, according to NASA, InSight’s giant solar panels can only produce about 27 percent of what they would if dust weren’t an issue.
Likewise, nearby dust devils failed to blow the dust off the panels, forcing the space agency to take steps to conserve the rover’s battery life. The rover needs a certain amount of energy to keep its heaters running, which generate the heat needed to operate on the planet.
Chuck Scott, NASA’s JPL InSight project manager, said:
The amount of electricity that will be available in the next few months will really depend on the weather. As part of our extended mission planning, we have developed an operational strategy to keep InSight safe through the winter so that we can resume scientific operations as the sun intensifies.
As soon as Mars moves towards the sun again, the amount of sunlight available to the rover increases, resulting in more power. In the coming months, NASA will be able to turn more instruments back on and eventually resume normal operations.