back to article NASA's Mars InSight trips into safe mode and ESA's Sentinel-1B gives scientists the silent treatment

While there were whoops and cheers for the James Webb Space Telescope, other missions on Mars and in orbit around the Earth have fared less well in recent weeks. First is NASA's InSight lander, which arrived on Mars in 2018 and, despite the failure of its Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package probe to dig into the surface …

  1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

    It just goes to show how difficult space engineering truly is. Hope they get InSight up and running when the dust clears.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Pint

    It's not all bad news

    InSight is in the hands of the Martian winds. Sentinel-1B is still being diagnosed.

    But at least NASA's new Imaging X-ray Polarimeter Explorer (IXPE) just completed commissioning and is targeting the Cassiopeia A supernova remnant, which it is using for calibration.

    IXPE Update

  3. redpawn

    I would think...

    that after all the problems with dust on mars an onboard fan or gas compressor would be standard kit for clearing solar pannels.

    1. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: I would think...

      Sure, but the call-out fee for the technician to blow the dust off is a bitch.

    2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Or just a brush on an arm, like a windshield wiper ?

      Would that have really been that much to add ?

      1. Tom Chiverton 1

        It's already lasted longer than planned, so no, not needed

        1. Andy The Hat Silver badge

          I agree that it's outlived it's expected lifespan however a significant duststorm could have happened a week into the mission ... Off the top of my head, the ability to pull a simple rubber/carbon fibre/whatever cord across the surface of the panel to remove, say, 30% of mission-threatening build up and restore significant power levels would be simple, cheap and light with (potentially) mission saving abilities ... even if you could only do it once. Heck, if they can transport the mass of a hammer drill to Mars that even a numpty like me predicted wouldn't work except in perfect conditions, they can afford transport a tiny motor and a piece of string ...

          1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

            Dragging something across the surface could leave scratches, which will both reduce panel performance and hold more dust, further reducing panel performance.

            A fan to periodically blow away surface dust doesn't seem difficult or heavy. The air may be thin, but it's still there. Given known problems of dust build-up affecting previous missions I'm amazed there's no such kit on InSight, but then I'm not a rocket surgeon.

    3. Chris G

      Re: I would think...

      There are technologies for the use of piezo electric arrays built into such things a solar panels for self cleaning effects, perhaps they are too energy intense or have some other problem that has prevented them from use on Mars so far.

      1. DJO Silver badge

        Re: I would think...

        The vibrations are hell on the connections, not a serious problem on Earth where replacement is easy but on Mars not so good.

        I would have thought the dust would be charged, they could perhaps repel some of the dust by applying a like charge to the surface of the panels.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Alien

      Re: I would think...

      The panels are 2.2m diameter, each. On Earth with convenient thick air you would need a large, steerable high-power fan to clean them which would probably not be very effective due to electrostatic effects. On Mars with inconvenient thin air you would need a really huge high-power fan, which would also probably not be very effective for same reason.

      Oh yes: you would need one of these for each panel unless you plan to strap it to magic robot arm which you then also would need.

      And also when you need to deploy this enormous heavy thing where does the power come from? Because the answer is 'not from the solar panels'. Perhaps you would propose carrying a large, heavy, battery to Mars to run it?

      Do you not think that, perhaps, martian explorer engineering people have thought of these ideas and done sums on them?

  4. Hero Protagonist
    Black Helicopters

    If only…

    I have a fantasy of Ingenuity flying over to InSight and using the prop downwash to blow the dust off the solar panels. (Yes I know this is not even remotely feasible.)

  5. el_oscuro
    Devil

    Opportunity

    Opportunity dropped off the grid a few years ago, pretending to have been disabled by a dust storm. Now we know what it has been up to:

    https://xkcd.com/1504/

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nothing there...

    Well I suppose I have to admit there's another pile of old junk there.

  7. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Anyone up for a private mission to Mars.

    Just a traffic light and a bloke with a squeegee and bottle of cleaner.

    Bloody fortune to be made there!

    1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

      Re: Anyone up for a private mission to Mars.

      Build it (a traffic light) and they will come?

      Although, the available traffic seems a little light to me.

      1. JassMan Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: Anyone up for a private mission to Mars.

        Although, the available traffic seems a little light to me.

        There are traffic lights in suburban parts of London where the traffic can be so light (for short periods each day) that there are no other vehicles, no pedestrians and yet they change to red just as you are approaching. They then take 3 minutes to change back to green. I believe it is all part of the government's levelling up agenda - making sure that there is equal pollution everywhere. Why don't they just go to flashing amber in both directions (and save 50% power) when traffic is light?

        1. ravenviz Silver badge

          Re: Anyone up for a private mission to Mars.

          It’s so you switch your engine off.

          Like everyone does when stationary.

          1. BristolBachelor Gold badge

            Re: Anyone up for a private mission to Mars.

            I've wondered about that. Do the houses have their heating and air conditioning turned off while they are stationary too?

            Although admittedly i probably thought of it here, where in summer the temperatures inside a car go above 45 within a minute of turning off the aircon, and similarly in winter when it's -15°C outside, you'd freeze not long after turning off the engine (which also turns off the suplemental heating.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Alien

              Re: Anyone up for a private mission to Mars.

              I have heard that batteries are now capable of providing enough power not only to start cars but to run fangled thing I think is called 'air adjustment' for a time. Do not know my self as still run traditional car: start with crank, magneto, acetylene carbide lighting, no battery. Is fine so long as lights do not explode which they often do.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Anyone up for a private mission to Mars.

      Perhaps the only practical use of a Mars mission ever conceived.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Alien

        Re: Anyone up for a private mission to Mars.

        Poor Zanzibar, his life is so grey, meaningless and utilitarian. It is unbearable for him. All he can think to reduce his mental anguish is to try and force his grey nightmare onto all other people: if he is miserable so should everyone be.

        Of course as a grey utiilitarian he does not believe in mental anguish, still less in joy or the joy of discovery: all is grey, all is flat, all is dead for him.

        Poor Zanzibar, so sad we are for him.

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