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NASA extends eight planetary missions, including one managed in Huntsville


NASA is extending the missions of eight robotic planetary explorers. That includes one managed by the Planetary Missions Programs Office at the Marshall Spaceflight Center in Huntsville. That Alabama based mission is called InSight. It operates a spacecraft doing the only seismic research away from Earth. The Insight lander touched down on Mars in 2018. The science mission includes sensors to monitor “marsquakes.” NASA was concerned about the power supply for InSight, namely the accumulation of Mars dust on the lander’s electricity generating solar panels. However, mission managers devised a way to shake off some of that dust by using InSight’s robot arm to sprinkle dust on the panels, which used Martians winds to carry away some of the particles that kept sunlight from reaching the panels to create power.

Other NASA missions being extended include OSIRIS-REx, which will visit another deep space asteroid; the New Horizons space probe will further explore the outer solar system after visiting Pluto; and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter now circling the red planet.

Pat Duggins is news director for Alabama Public Radio.
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