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Rock and a hard place: The InSight experiment faces setbacks

<! – Even successful robot missions can run into obstacles. This seems to be the case with NASA's Mars InSight lander and its self-hammer "mole". -> Jim Sharkey March 7, 2019 NASA's InSight Lander sets its heat profile, called the Heat and Physical Properties Package (HP3), on the Mars surface on February 12. Image Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / DLR Even the most successful robot exploration missions sometimes run into obstacles. This seems to be the case with NASA's Mars InSight lander and its efforts to measure the internal plane's internal temperature. On February 28, the self-healing probe for InSight's heat and physical properties was package instruments (HP3) about three-quarters of its house before it was stopped. The probe is designed to dig up to 16 meters (5 meters) below the surface. A second round of hammering on March 2 resulted in no significant progress. The probe, nicknamed "mole", seems to be at a 15 degree gradient and about 30 cm in the regolite, according to HP3's lead researcher Tilman Spohn, who writes updates in a blog. He said the mole is probably still 2.8 inches (7 centimeters) in the pipe of the support structure. The mission team believes that pier may have struck a stone or some gravel. Since there are very few stones on the surface near the lander, there would have been hope that there would be few under the ground. According to NASA, the pier was designed to drive small stones out of the way, or…

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Even successful robot missions can run into obstacles. This seems to be the case with NASA’s Mars InSight lander and its self-hammer “mole”.

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NASA’s InSight Lander sets its heat profile, called the Heat and Physical Properties Package (HP3), on the Mars surface on February 12. Image Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / DLR

Even the most successful robot exploration missions sometimes run into obstacles. This seems to be the case with NASA’s Mars InSight lander and its efforts to measure the internal plane’s internal temperature.

On February 28, the self-healing probe for InSight’s heat and physical properties was package instruments (HP3) about three-quarters of its house before it was stopped. The probe is designed to dig up to 16 meters (5 meters) below the surface.

A second round of hammering on March 2 resulted in no significant progress. The probe, nicknamed “mole”, seems to be at a 15 degree gradient and about 30 cm in the regolite, according to HP3’s lead researcher Tilman Spohn, who writes updates in a blog. He said the mole is probably still 2.8 inches (7 centimeters) in the pipe of the support structure.

The mission team believes that pier may have struck a stone or some gravel. Since there are very few stones on the surface near the lander, there would have been hope that there would be few under the ground. According to NASA, the pier was designed to drive small stones out of the way, or to work around them.

Artist’s rendering of InSight lander’s HP3 instrument. Image Credit: DLR

The HP3 instrument, provided by the German Space Center (DLR), successfully passed rocks several times during launch testing.

“The team has decided to pause the hammer for now to let the situation be analyzed more closely and jointly come up with strategies to overcome the obstacle,” Spohn says.

Spohn said that the team had decided to pause hammering in roughly two weeks to analyze the situation and develop a strategy to overcome the obstacle.

“It is still fresh but of course its lifetime is limited – in terms of hammer blows it can do before it is worn down – even though we are not worried about that it would break soon, Spohn says in a March 6 blog post. “But the team wants to play it safely and get all the evidence that can become available, including seismic data together to see how we can help the mill overcome the obstacle.”

Meanwhile, the team is focused on making heat conductivity measurements for the first time on the red planet. They also used a radiometer on the landing tires to observe temperature changes when Mars Moon Phobos passed in front of the sun.

An artist’s concept of InSight Lander on Mars. The mission is the first one that is dedicated to investigating the deep interior of Mars. The results can deepen our understanding of how all rocky planets, including the earth, formed and developed. Image Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

Marked: H3P InSight Jet Propulsion Laboratory Lead Stories Mars NASA

Jim Sharkey

Jim Sharkey is a laboratory assistant, writer, and general scientific enthusiast who grew up in Enid, Oklahoma, home town of Skylab and Shuttle astronaut Owen K. Garriott. As a young Star Trek fan, he participated in the letter writing campaign, which resulted in the space shuttle prototype being called Enterprise.

While his academic studies have varied from psychology and archeology to biology, he has never lost his passion for space exploration. Jim began blogging about science, science fiction and futurism in 2004.

Jim lives in the San Francisco Bay area and has participated in NASA Socials for the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity Rover Landing and the NASA LOAD Lunar Orbiter launch.

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