The American space agency NASA expects to close the Marslander InSight, launched four years ago, within six weeks. At the last minute, the lander helped search for the source of a quake, which turned out to be a meteorite impact.
Scientists have now determined that the magnitude 4 quake of December 24 last year was caused by a meteorite impact. To reach that conclusion, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which flies around the planet, was used. This made images of before and after the event, in which a crater became visible.
The meteorite is estimated to measure 5 to 12 meters. At that size, it would have burned up in Earth’s atmosphere, but that’s not true of Mars’ thin atmosphere. The impact resulted in a crater 150 meters wide and 21 meters deep. It is probably one of the largest craters ever found after the arrival of scientific missions, according to NASA. There are much larger craters on Mars, but they are all much older and predate any Mars mission.
Marslander InSight’s mission began in 2018. InSight was sent to Mars for soil research. The planned mission was completed in 2020 and extended until 2022. The question was how long InSight could remain active, because the solar panels with which the Marslander is equipped are becoming increasingly covered with dust. In recent months, the amount of electricity generated by it has decreased significantly, which is why NASA expects to finish the lander’s mission in six weeks. InSight has detected a total of 1,318 Marsquakes.