NASA officially retires its InSight Mars lander

The agency last heard back from the lander on December 15th.


After two consecutive failed attempts to re-establish contact, NASA on Wednesday officially called an end to its InSight Mars mission. On December 15th, the lander made its final transmission to Earth. NASA said it would make the tough decision to call the mission dead after two failed communication attempts earlier this year. The agency will continue to listen for a signal “just in case” but notes the odds of that occurring at this point are “considered unlikely.”

NASA shared the news of InSight’s impending demise on Monday when it posted the lander’s final selfie -- taken on April 24th, 2022 -- to Twitter. Since arriving on the martian surface in 2018, InSight has gradually accumulated dust on its solar panels. Earlier this year, NASA predicted the debris would become too thick for the lander to power itself.

“My power’s really low, so this may be the last image I can send,” InSight’s final tweet reads. “Don’t worry about me though: my time here has been both productive and serene. If I can keep talking to my mission team, I will – but I’ll be signing off here soon. Thanks for staying with me.”

NASA is being modest when it says InSight’s time on Mars was productive. For more than four years, the lander – its name short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport – collected data about the planet’s deep interior. Using a highly sensitive seismometer, InSight detected 1,319 “marsquakes,” including at least one caused by a meteoroid impact. Using that information, NASA scientists concluded the core of Mars is about half the size of Earth’s. InSight also sent back daily weather reports and gave humans our first chance to hear some of the sounds of the Red Planet.

“InSight has more than lived up to its name. As a scientist who’s spent a career studying Mars, it’s been a thrill to see what the lander has achieved, thanks to an entire team of people across the globe who helped make this mission a success,” said Laurie Leshin, the director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the unit that managed the mission. “Yes, it’s sad to say goodbye, but InSight’s legacy will live on, informing and inspiring.”