Previous Mars probes became helpless and unusable after their solar panels became covered in dust.

Since InSight, unlike previous or other planned probes, is equipped with a long robotic arm, does it also have a tool such as a brush so it can dust itself off?

If not, why did NASA choose not to equip the probe with such a tool? Especially since it already has the most complex mechanism (the arm) and since such a capability could prevent the loss of the probe or mission and might prolong its useful life.

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    $\begingroup$ Possible duplicate of How will the ExoMARS Rover keep it's solar panels dust-free and collecting maximum power? $\endgroup$ – Hobbes Nov 28 '18 at 9:03
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    $\begingroup$ Can you name the previous Mars probes that "...became helpless and unusable after their solar panels became covered in dust." and explain how it is known that the problem was dust on their solar panels and not dust causing problems? Thanks! $\endgroup$ – uhoh Nov 28 '18 at 10:27
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    $\begingroup$ This is related but not a duplicate: Could dusters be installed on solar panels on a mars lander? $\endgroup$ – uhoh Nov 28 '18 at 10:29
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    $\begingroup$ I'd urge you to go through Cleaning event, it should gives you a brief idea. $\endgroup$ – Boosted Nub Nov 29 '18 at 5:14
  • $\begingroup$ What about examples for helpless and unusable probes after their solar panels became covered in dust? Were the probes unusable forever? $\endgroup$ – Uwe Dec 1 '18 at 22:23

NASA has been working on electrostatic panel cleaning system. I don't know if it has been tested in space or is on the Insight or not. This item was written in 2010 so there has been some time for the technology to improve:

From Science Daily's Self-cleaning technology from Mars can keep terrestrial solar panels dust free

In a report at the 240th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS) on August 22, they described how a self-cleaning coating on the surface of solar cells could increase the efficiency of producing electricity from sunlight and reduce maintenance costs for large-scale solar installations.

and continues:

Working with NASA, Mazumder and colleagues initially developed the self-cleaning solar panel technology for use in lunar and Mars missions. "Mars of course is a dusty and dry environment," Mazumder said, "and solar panels powering rovers and future manned and robotic missions must not succumb to dust deposition. But neither should the solar panels here on Earth."

The self-cleaning technology involves deposition of a transparent, electrically sensitive material deposited on glass or a transparent plastic sheet covering the panels. Sensors monitor dust levels on the surface of the panel and energize the material when dust concentration reaches a critical level. The electric charge sends a dust-repelling wave cascading over the surface of the material, lifting away the dust and transporting it off of the screen's edges.

Mazumder said that within two minutes, the process removes about 90 percent of the dust deposited on a solar panel and requires only a small amount of the electricity generated by the panel for cleaning operations.

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  • $\begingroup$ This is an interesting technology! Why don't you consider asking a new question about it to find out how far along this technology has developed since 2010 and if it is, or will be used on Mars or Moon landers? Welcome to Space! $\endgroup$ – uhoh Dec 1 '18 at 22:58

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