NASA spacecraft spots dead robot on Mars surface

A Martian Artifact

Mars is slowly collecting artifacts from human exploration. Thanks to the powerful camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which looks for signs of past water and monitors changes on the planet, we can see these artifacts clearly. Recently, the orbiter took pictures of NASA’s retired InSight lander, now getting covered in desert dust.

NASA shared these images on X (formerly Twitter), asking, “Can you spot @NASAInSight?” They explained that by watching the InSight landing site over time, scientists can learn how quickly dust builds up, which helps them estimate the age of other surface changes on Mars.

Can you spot @NASAInSight?

The retired lander was recently spotted by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. By studying InSight’s landing site over time, scientists can see how quickly dust accumulates, which helps estimate the age of other surface disturbances.

— NASA Mars (@NASAMars) May 6, 2024

The InSight lander’s mission ended in December 2022 after four years of studying Mars’ geological activity. During its mission, InSight recorded over 1,300 marsquakes, including a huge one, proving that Mars is not geologically dead. It also studied Mars’ core and sent back daily weather reports.

Unlike the nuclear-powered Perseverance and Curiosity rovers, the InSight lander used solar power. Over time, Martian dust covered its solar panels, reducing its power until its batteries finally died. In the image, you can see InSight with its two circular solar panels flanking its main body.

Other past Mars explorers are also resting quietly on the planet, including the Phoenix lander, the Opportunity rover, and the Ingenuity helicopter. NASA has also spotted discarded landing gear and parachutes. One day, these early exploration relics might be preserved like national park sites on Earth.

For now, InSight sits on the flat equatorial plains of Elysium Planitia, gathering dust.