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NASA InSight is trying to clean up its solar panels on Mars

NASA InSight is trying to clean up its solar panels on Mars

Lately, when you think of MarsUS Rovers usually come to mind NASA CuriosityAnd the NASA persevere (With cleverness) or the Chinese rover Zurong. But there’s another mission still running on the surface of the Red Planet: we’re talking about it NASA Insight, which was not so lucky, but nonetheless collected interesting data.

As we know, the nail hammers that was supposed to have entered the Martian soil for a few meters did not work properly. After several trials, this part of the mission was put off by aiming instead On a seismograph which is working properly. In addition to the task It may be long Until December 2022, two years later than expected. This Mars probe However he has a power source with Solar Panels And now you’re trying “dust them”.

NASA Insight and Martian dust on solar panels

Unlike the last two American roving vehicles (Curiosity and Perseverance) to use plutonium, RTG, for the mission insight A dual solar panel system was selected. The reasons are related to the difficulty of finding useful plutonium for RTG, lowering the cost and lowering the weight.

It was also thought that the Martian wind would clean enough Solar Panels To allow generation of useful energy for processes. Despite the high efficiency in the first stage of the mission, NASA wanted to try to remove part of dust of paintings, As explained recently.

in insight

thanks for the robotic arm From NASA Insight Some of the sand collected from the roof could have been dumped near the solar panel, helping the wind blow off some of the dust. This simple process made it possible 30 watt gain For every lunar day.

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As Mars approaches aphelion, which is the point farthest from the Sun, reducing energy supply. To prevent the batteries from running out completely (also in view of the mission extension), the scientific instruments will be deactivated in the coming months. Thanks to the cleaning process, this limit has been exceeded for more than a few weeks. The power will then be reserved for the onboard computer and heating system. Cleaning operations will be completed by June 5, 2021.

Other Lander Strategies for Cleaning Solar Panels

Engineers previously tried to remove dust thanks to the engines that sprouted in i Solar Panels. However, this operation was not successful. The solar panels do not have the ability to tilt and there are no active cleaning systems (such as brushes or systems “by air”). motivation, As explained by JPL, is the reduction of weak points that can further complicate operations. Moreover, even in this case, there is a tendency to save weight.

The other solution (determined Control – intuitive) had to throw sand near solar panel From NASA Insight. In doing so, the Martian winds by moving the larger grains allow the finer grains to be removed, freeing the solar panels.


For the tests, we chose the time of noon of Mars which is the most windy moment (6 m/s) with a suitable direction for cleaning. There was a degree of uncertainty as to whether the operation would be successful, but fortunately things went as planned.

The Mars solar conjunction (The Sun will stand between Earth and Mars) which makes communication difficult. This means that missions active at that time will no longer receive messages from Earth even though they are still able to send some information. This topic will continue until the end of October. In the future there will be Missions continue with solar panelsAnd the NASA Insight So he will not be the last to adopt this system.

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