It’s been a long way for InSight’s Mole. insight It landed on Mars nearly two years ago, in November 2018. While the other probe instruments are working fine and returning scientific data, the mall has been struggling to make its way to the planet’s surface.
After a lot of hard work and a lot of patience, Mole finally manages to bury himself all the way in Marian lush.
But the drama is not over yet.
The Mole is a 16-inch long heat probe that knocks itself deep into the surface. It has a maximum depth of 5 meters (16 feet) below the surface, which is the ideal operating depth. But it can also collect useful scientific data at shallow depths of about 3 meters (10 feet). As it stands now, the mole is not deep enough to do any science.
But two years later, this is still the deepest.
The actual name for a mole is Heat flow package and physical propertiesOr HP3. It is designed to measure the heat coming from inside Mars. The rope that connects it to the InSight landing craft has temperature sensors along its length. InSight stands for inner exploration using seismic investigations, geodesy, and heat transfer. The thermal transfer part of the job is making a mole.
Since the tool was published, I’ve run into problems. The mole penetrates by slowly knocking itself into the ground. But this road movement depends on the friction between the mole and the sides of the hole. Without this friction, the machine bounces off the hole.
The problem is what is called Peel. It is a hard surface layer that forms in dry areas. Mars is definitely barren. The tough crust around the mole prevents soil from falling into the mole pit as it pokes, and the tool deprives the friction needed to make its way to Mars.
While InSight is primarily NASA’s mission, Mole was designed and built by DLR (German Space Center). They’ve been working with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which has an engineering version of a mole in a test bed. There they tried to overcome these challenges.
They attempted to use the scoop at the end of the InSight arm to apply lateral pressure to the mole, hoping to provide the necessary friction. They tried to squeeze the mole, too, while carefully avoiding the delicate cord. They tried to scoop up loose materials and place them in the mole pit.
Today, NASA announced that the mole has finally been completely buried in dirt. This is a victory of sorts, but there is still a long way to go. Now that it’s buried, the InSight team will continue to shovel more soil over the device and spin it around before resuming road operations.
But all of this takes time.
Troy Hudson, the scientist and engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory who led the work, said, “I am so happy that we were able to recover from the unexpected ‘popup’ event that we witnessed and make the mole deeper than it has ever been. We’re not completely done. We want to make sure there is enough soil on top of the mole to enable it to dig on its own without any assistance from its arm, ”Hudson said in Press release.
Dredging and compacting the soil will take months. NASA says it is not likely to resume the road process until January 2021. Part of what is hampering the process is the accumulation of dust on InSight’s solar panels. This reduces the energy available to the entire mission.
Tillman Spoon is the scientific director of the mall at DLR. He was writing prof Blog About the effort to make the mole work. In a post on October 16, 2020, Spohn talked about the next steps, and how they work for the “Free Mole Test”. A free mole test is done when you let a mole try to make its way below the surface without the aid of a scoop.
He wrote: “After some discussion about the next steps, we decided to conduct two parallel scoops on Saturday 17 October (Sol 659).”
Spoon writes, “Next, a measurement of the thermal conductivity will be performed, which should also give us indirect indications about the backfill.” “Then the filler is compressed to compress the sand and press the mole. Depending on the result of the backfilling, further procedures will be planned to fill the hole before more methods, and another free test will be done later.”
On the ground, it would be easy to use a drill bit to penetrate under the surface. But the drill is heavy, requires a lot of strength, and needs stability to prevent it from spinning rather than digging. This is simply not possible on Mars. The drill may weigh a lot and will require much more power than the mole. A mole is 1 inch (2.7 cm) in diameter and about 16 inches (40 cm) long. It should be light and small enough to fit the constraints of the task.
Hopefully, the mole will eventually reach his depth of work. Meanwhile, other InSight tools work and return data. Thanks to SEIS (Seismic Experiment of the Inner Structure) we know that Mars is A seismically active planet.
But without a mole and its thermal transfer readings, InSight would never fulfill its mission.