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NASA's Insight Mars Lander Is Dying. This May Be Its Last Image

Break out the tissues. InSight's Mars mission is almost at an end.

Dusty Mars landscape with curved horizon, parts of the InSight lander visible and a dome-covered seismometer.
This is part of what may be the InSight lander's final image from Mars.
NASA/JPL-Caltech

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

Dust, rocks, a hazy horizon. That's the view from NASA's InSight lander as it enters its final days on Mars. The solar-powered lander has investigated the planet's interior and measured its quakes, but the red planet's relentless dust has choked out its power. We are now seeing its last images from its time on another world.

The InSight team shared a poignant tweet on Monday written from the lander's point of view. "My power's really low, so this may be the last image I can send. Don't worry about me though: My time here has been both productive and serene," the team wrote. "If I can keep talking to my mission team, I will, but I'll be signing off here soon. Thanks for staying with me."

The image appears to date from Dec. 11. It's the most recent to show up on InSight's raw image feed. NASA prioritized powering the lander's seismometer to listen for Marsquakes, so it shut down most of the lander's other instruments. We have gotten new images on occasion. 

The photo gives us the perspective from the front of the lander during late afternoon on Mars. The dome-covered seismometer stands out against the dusty ground. "Distortion from the wide-angle lens bends the distant horizon into a curved shape, while low-angle sunlight causes a small bluish lens flare on the right side," NASA said.

InSight landed on Mars in 2018 and outlived its original mission. NASA will declare an official end to its work when it's no longer able to communicate with Earth. 

Beside the landscape image, we also have InSight's final selfie from earlier this year to remember it by. Its legacy won't be just postcards and memories. The science work it did will live on long after the lander shuts down.