Now that the heat probe is just below the Martian surface, the InSight arm will take extra soil from above to keep digging so it can Mars̵
NASAThe InSight lander continues to work to get its “mole” – a 16-inch (40-centimeter) pilot and a heat probe – deep below the surface of Mars. An InSight hand camera recently took pictures of the partially filled mole hole, showing only the device’s scientific tape protruding from the ground.
The sensors built into the tape are designed to measure the heat emanating from the planet after the mole has been dug at least 3 meters deep. The mission team is working to help the mole bury itself at least to this depth so that it can detect the temperature on Mars.
The mole is designed so that loose soil flows around it, providing friction on its outer hull so that it can dig deeper; without this friction, the mole simply bounces in place as it knocks to the ground. But the ground on which InSight landed is different from previous missions: During a hammer, the ground sticks together, forming a small hole around the device instead of collapsing around it and providing the necessary friction.
After the mole unexpectedly withdrew from the pit while knocking last year, the team placed the small spoon at the end of the robotic arm of the lander on it to hold it in the ground. Now that the mole is completely embedded in the soil, they will use the spoon to scrape off additional soil on it, pressing this soil to provide more friction. As it will take months to remove enough soil, the mole is not expected to resume knocking until early 2021.
“I’m very happy that we were able to recover from the unexpected” pop-up “we went through and make the mole deeper than it ever was,” said Troy Hudson, a scientist and engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. who directs the work to make the mole dig. “But we are not quite ready. We want to make sure that there is enough soil on the tip of the mole to be able to dig alone without any help from the hand. “
The mole is officially called the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package or HP3, and was built and provided to NASA by the German Space Agency (DLR). JPL in Southern California leads the InSight mission. Read more about the mole’s recent progress in this DLR blog.
More about the mission
JPL manages InSight for NASA’s Scientific Mission Directorate. InSight is part of NASA’s Discovery Program, managed by the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Lockheed Martin Space in Denver built the InSight spacecraft, including its cruise phase and landing, and maintained spacecraft operations for the mission.
A number of European partners, including the French National Study Center (CNES) and the German Aerospace Center (DLR), support the InSight mission. CNES provided NASA with the Seismic Experiment Structure for Internal Structure (SEIS) with the principal investigator at IPGP (Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris). The IPGP made a significant contribution to SEIS; The Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Germany; The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) in Switzerland; Imperial College London and Oxford University in the United Kingdom; and JPL. DLR provided the package for heat flux and physical properties (HP3), with significant contributions from the Center for Space Research (CBK) of the Polish Academy of Sciences and Astronika in Poland. The Spanish Center for Astrobiology (CAB) has supplied temperature and wind sensors.