NASA’s Mars InSight lander ends mission after losing power

NASA announced Wednesday (Dec. 21) that its InSight lander, designed to understand the geologic life story of Mars, has completed its mission on the Red Planet. The spacecraft relied on solar power, and after four years on Mars, its sunlight-collecting panels have built up too much dust to generate enough power to run the lander. For months now, the InSight team have been expecting the lander to fall silent. Now, the robot has missed two calls home; scientists last heard from the robot on Dec. 15. NASA will keep listening, but doesn’t expect to hear anything more from the lander.

Falcon 9 launches ocean science mission for NASA and CNES

The Falcon 9 lifted off from Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California at 6:46 a.m. Eastern Dec. 16. The rocket’s upper stage released the payload, the Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) spacecraft, into an 890-kilometer orbit 52 minutes later. The rocket’s first stage, making its sixth flight, landed back at the launch site seven and a half minutes after liftoff.