The weather on Mars has given the landers more time to land.

NASA's InSight landers touched down on Mars in November of last year with tools to help scientists see deeper into the Red Planet. Dust has covered the solar panels of InSight, meaning it can't generate as much power as it could. The lander was supposed to run out of power by the end of the summer, but it's still going strong and may continue to do so into January.

"However, if we get a dust storm or something like that, then it can be sooner," Chuck Scott, project manager for InSight, told If we get any type of Mars weather, that could spell the end of the mission.

As power dwindles, NASA's Mars InSight landers snaps dusty selfies.

The amount of power InSight can produce depends on the amount of dust on its solar panels and the amount of dust in the atmosphere. Dust storms can cause trouble.

Although the Perseverance and Curiosity rovers use nuclear power, their predecessors the twin Spirit and Opportunity rovers both battled dust build up, and a dust storm ended the Opportunity mission

Unexpected help from "cleaning events" likely came from dust storms that removed dust and boosted power production. InSight hasn't had that kind of luck, and attempts to shake the dust off and to mimic a cleaning event didn't do much.

The landers would be forced to shut down this spring according to InSight personnel. The mode meant to prioritize getting power to the seismometer was put in place by May. It will work until it doesn't, and the team reset the rules to avoid the safe mode that usually enters when something is wrong.

The landers is still functioning. Scott said that they have had a bit of Mars weather that is lucky for them because they haven't been having any big dust storms.

Scientists thought that a dust storm would speed up the demise of the lander. The season is starting more slowly than it has in the past.

Scott said that they were expecting the dust storms to cause a problem for them. "But in looking at the weather this year, the people that forecast that Mars weather, they are not going to see any storms for another couple of weeks."

It could produce 5,000 watt-hours per sol, which is 40 minutes longer than an Earth day. The power has gone down. Scott said that every time there is a storm on Mars it will go down. He said some storms knocked 100 watt-hours off production. Depending on the storm's size.

The capacity it had at landing is less than a tenth of what it is now. Scott said that the seismometer, communications and basic functions need about 300 watt-hours per sol to run.

When the lander doesn't hit that, it will put itself into a dead bus, where it won't be able to use its batteries anymore. There will be no way for it to restart if the battery fails.

Mission personnel don't know how long the final battery drain will last, but it might take a couple of years. There is a chance that the wind could clear enough dust for the solar panels to start working again.

"Based on what we've seen, we think the chance of that happening before the battery actually fails is 10%," Scott said. Once we get into a dead bus, that will be the end of the mission.

Even with the "dead bus" looming, the team is still trying to get every piece of data it can. The landers can go down to eight hours of observing and still give useful data. The landers is running its seismometer for half the day. When power supplies dwindle, the balance will shift until the landers observe for eight hours at a time, then take a couple of sols to replenish.

Scott said that the landers caught a marsquake at the end of August.

He said that they expected that to continue until the mission ended. We're trying to get as much science out of the vehicle as we can until it dies.

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