Science.-End to the mission of the internal heat probe of Mars

Science.-End to the mission of the internal heat probe of Mars

01/15/2021 The “mole”, a heat probe that traveled to Mars aboard NASA’s InSight lander, as seen after hammering on Saturday, January 9, 2021. The probe to study internal heat Mars aboard NASA’s InSight lander has ended its mission, failing to get the friction it needs to dig. RESEARCH AND TECHNOLOGY POLICY NASA / JPL-CALTECH


The probe to study the internal heat of Mars aboard NASA’s InSight lander has ended its mission, failing to obtain the friction it needs to excavate.

Since February 28, 2019, the probe, called ‘mole’ and built by the German Aerospace Center (DLR), has attempted to dig into the Martian surface to take the internal temperature of the planet, providing details about the internal heat engine that powers the evolution and geology of Mars.

But the unexpected tendency of the soil to stick together deprived the herringbone drill of the friction it needs to hammer to a sufficient depth.

After placing the top of the ‘mole’ about 2 to 3 centimeters below the surface, the team last tried using a shovel on InSight’s robotic arm to scrape the dirt over the probe and tamp it down to provide additional friction. . After the probe made an additional 500 hammer blows on Saturday, January 9, without any progress, the team put an end to their efforts.

Part of an instrument called the Physical Properties and Heat Flow Package (HP3), the mole is a 16-inch-long (40-centimeter long) hammer connected to the lander by a strap with built-in temperature sensors. These sensors are designed to measure the heat that flows from the planet once the mole has dug at least 10 feet deep.

“We have given it everything we have, but Mars and our heroic mole are still incompatible,” HP3 principal investigator Tilman Spohn of DLR said in a statement. “Fortunately, we have learned a lot that will benefit future missions attempting to dig underground.”

While NASA’s Phoenix lander scraped the top layer of the Martian surface, no mission before InSight has attempted to dig into the ground. Doing so is important for a variety of reasons: Future astronauts may need to dig into the ground to access the water ice, while scientists want to study the potential underground to support microbial life.

The mission intends to use the robotic arm to bury the belt that transmits data and energy between the lander and InSight’s seismometer, which has recorded more than 480 earthquakes. Burying it will help reduce the temperature changes that have created cracking and popping sounds in the seismic data.

NASA recently extended the InSight mission for two more years, until December 2022. In addition to looking for earthquakes, the lander is hosting a radio experiment that collects data to reveal whether the planet’s core is liquid or solid.

And InSight’s weather sensors are capable of providing some of the most detailed weather data ever collected on Mars. Together with meteorological instruments aboard NASA’s Curiosity rover and its new Perseverance rover, which will land on February 18, the three spacecraft will create the first weather network on another planet, according to NASA.


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