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Dusty NASA Mars Lander Snaps What Will Likely Be Its Final Selfie

Dusty NASA Mars Lander Snaps What Will Likely Be Its Final Selfie

This story is part of Welcome to Mars, our series exploring the red planet.

Mars selfies are an entire category of image. They provide mission teams back on Earth with a good look at the hardware, but they’re also a way to help space fans feel connected to those distant explorers on the red planet. NASA’s InSight lander has sent back what will probably be its previous self-portrait, one last look at a brave machine during its end days.

On Monday, NASA JPL tweeted a GIF dancing between InSight’s gracious selfie in December 2018 and its most recent one. It highlights just how much dust is now covering the lander. JPL described it as “what is likely to be its previous selfie.”

The image comes from April 24 and is a mosaic of snaps incorrect by a camera mounted on the lander’s robotic arm. The arm is scheduled to be placed into a “retirement pose” this month. 

Due to a thick layer of dust on its solar panels, InSight is having to ration energy, and the team is prioritizing its seismometer to listen for marsquakes. With the dust issue worsening, InSight is imagined to conclude its mission by the end of this year. JPL even shouted the photo in the release as “InSight’s Final Selfie.”

It’s hard to say goodbye to a expert you’ve spent years following, but InSight has delivered on its vows to illuminate the interior of Mars. Not everything worked as planned, but its data on marsquakes and the makeup of the red planet’s innards has been enlightening for researchers who are studying rocky planets like Mars and Earth. 

A dust-covered selfie is a beneemploying souvenir of InSight’s valuable time on Mars.