Solar Power on Mars!
This was a very exciting week for solar in space! The NASA Insight lander touched down on Mars on Monday afternoon after 7 months of travel through space, covering 300 million miles. NASA reported that the lander’s solar panels are now successfully deployed and effectively collecting sunlight on the Martian surface so that the spacecraft can recharge its batteries each day.
InSight’s twin solar arrays are 7 feet wide and provides 600-700 watts of solar power, which is sufficient to power the lander and study the entire planet and its interior. Energy is absorbed through solar arrays on panels, collecting the sun’s energy. Even when dust covers the panels (a common occurrence on Mars) they can still provide at least 200 to 300 watts.
As is the case on Earth, using solar for power in space is the safest, most reliable and effective energy source available anywhere in the universe. Explorations and missions to distant planets require reliable amounts of power. Solar power is easily distributed and can be brought to remote locations easily, without having to build a power distribution grid. And, solar power is also failure resistant, while an anomaly with another form of energy could result in a massive drop in power generation.
Although Mars has weaker sunlight than Earth because the planet is further away from the Sun, “Mars is bright and warm enough to power the lander’s solar array year-round.” This is the same as here on Earth, where solar panels work just as effectively in winter months with less sunlight, as in the summer months when there is more sunlight.