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Dusty InSight Shows Up in Martian Selfie

After sending us weather reports, views of the Martian sunrise and sunset, and the feel of an eclipse, NASA's InSight lander shows Earth how dusty the neighboring planet really is.
Dusty InSIght lander selfie 1 photo
Dust is a serious issue for human-made machines on Mars, as in most cases can interfere with the normal operation of landers and rovers. In the most extreme cases, as it happened with the Opportunity rover, dust and its ability to block sunlight can prove deadly.

This week, NASA published a selfie taken by InSight, showing the dust-burdened solar panels of the lander.

Luckily, the same phenomenon that deposits dust particles – wind - is responsible for taking it away. According to the space agency, on February 1 InSight's solar panels experienced 0.7 and 2.7 percent bumps in power, suggesting wind cleared parts of the panels.

"It didn't make a significant difference to our power output, but this first event is fascinating science," said in a statement InSight science team member Ralph Lorenz

"It gives us a starting point for understanding how the wind is driving changes on the surface. We still don't really know how much wind it takes to lift dust on Mars."

InSight landed on the Martian surface only a few months ago, but it has already sent back valuable data about the planet, including the first ever possible information about a quake. Despite the tremor being “too small to provide solid data on the Martian interior,” it kicked of what the agency calls Martian seismology.

SEIS, one of the many instruments of the lander and the one used to detect the tremor, uses three sensitive pendulums fitted with a motor-driven equilibrating system and special thermal compensation mechanism, all enclosed in a sphere.

Another tool, RISE (Rotation and Interior Structure Experiment), will assess perturbations of Mars' rotation axis, and the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) will determine the amount of heat escaping from the planet's interior.

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