Insight Probe Making Progress In Burrowing Into Mars Surface Written 6 May 2020


InSight Lander | NASA/JPL-Caltech

Space News reports that the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package instrument on NASA’s InSight Mars lander “has struggled for more than a year to make its way into the Martian surface,” but the instrument “is now making steady, but slow progress with the help of the lander’s robotic arm.” The instrument “was to deploy a probe, or ‘mole,’ into the surface of the planet, using a hammering mechanism to burrow as deep as five meters below the surface to measure the heat flow from the planet’s interior. The probe, though, got stuck shortly after it started burrowing in February 2019, getting no deeper than about 30 centimeters.” Recently, “spacecraft controllers positioned the scoop on the end of the lander’s robotic arm on top of the mole, pushing down on it to help it move into the surface and to prevent it from moving back out.” That “approach is working so far.” German Aerospace Center principal investigator for the instrument Tilman Spohn said in a May 4 webinar, “The mole is going down by its hammering mechanism, but it is aided by the push of the scoop that balances the force of the recoil.” However, he said it is a “very tedious operation,” and added, “We can only go like 1.5 centimeters at a time before we have to readjust.” Another “issue is the angle at which the mole is penetrating into the surface. The mole was originally designed to go down vertically, but is now at an angle of nearly 30 degrees from the vertical.”
Full Story (Space News)