Geeking Science: Dust to Dust

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

On the left is a selfie from the InSight lander in December 2018, on the right is one from June 2021. (The Planetary Society)

Martian dust finally claimed the InSight on December 18, 2022, when it stopped responding to communication. (NASA, 2022) Originally planned for a 2018-2020 lifespan, the lander, like so many of it’s Martian relatives, push onward, doubling the mission time.

The primary mission was a seismometer to track Marsquakes. No one was sure if anything would be detected at all before sending the testing equipment, and the risk proved worthwhile, resulting in over 1,300 seismic event with the biggest one on May 2022 (during the bonus time mission) of a magnitude of 5, with vibrations continuing through the planet for at least six hours. (NASA, undated) Those seismic events have given a look at the Mars interior – proving it has a crust, mantle, and core with the crust thinner than expected. In addition the quakes indicate, Mars is still very much a living planet with a molten core.

In 2021, a magnitude 4 Marsquake ended up being attributed to a meteoroid strike. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter found the impact site … with churned up water ice previously buried underground. (Treisman)

Thank you InSight for your long service. Dust to dust.


Foust, Jeff. “NASA confirms impending end for InSight.” SpaceNews. May 18, 2022. – last viewed 12/20/2022.

Malik, Tariq. “This may be the last Mars photo from NASA’s InSight lander before it dies on the Red Planet.” December 20, 2022. – last viewed 12/20/2022.

NASA. “InSight Mission News – Mission Updates.” December 19, 2022.,As%20of%20Dec.,range%20from%200.6%2D0.7). – last viewed 12/20/2022.

NASA. “InSight Top Science Results: Detected First Quake on Another Planet.” (undated). – last viewed 12/20/2022

The Planetary Society. “Space Snapshot.” The Downlink. May 27, 2022. (email newsletter)

Treisman, Rachel. “Goodnight, sweet spacecraft: NASA’s InSight lander may have just signed off from Mars.” December 20, 2022. – last viewed 12/20/2022.