Last week, NASA's Mars InSight Lander began digging up on the Red Planet. The HP3 tool (Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package) was designed to immerse and measure Mars from the underground, revealing new geological data on how heat travels through the Martian soil. Part of this tool, which is actually buried in the ground, is known as a mole. He had to penetrate to a depth of 16 feet. But he stopped only a few hours after digging began. Mole only made her around the foot.
Since then, mission scientists have been struggling to understand how to do it. Their current best assumption, according to Thillman Spon, chief researcher of the HP3 tool, is that the mole fell into a rock or gravel layer. But he admits that this is partly speculation. It is possible that drilling has been hitting one way or another for its own support structure. The team needs to explore all the possibilities before acting.
Testing at home and on the Mars
To find out, the NASA team has turned to a set of diagnostic tools such as the InSight camera and other sensors. But they are also trying to reproduce the problem with engineering models on Earth. InSight has a twin, currently located in Berlin, and many more copies of its various instruments, including the mole. And engineers have been practicing with these clone devices since they were out of service, trying to recreate the problem they see on Mars, and then develop a way to once again dig the earthen moles. Only then will they try to correct them in genuine InSight.
Spohn points out that the whole process is slow, and maybe another month, until the team is ready to try any fixes ̵
So, at the moment, teams in the German language Aerospace Center, which provided the HP3 tool, and NASA's jet propulsion laboratory, which manages the large mission of InSight, work together to find the cause and possible solutions to the InSight digging problem.
Possible Conclusions There are scenarios that can stop the mission where it is. – If there is a camera unit at 1 meter (3 feet), – says Spon, – we can not cope with this situation. We hope that what we kill is a small rock, say, half the length of the moth. Spohn calls this "brute force" approach.
One way scientists try to help a hammer hammer is to click on the mole or its support, probably in the hand of the Light, to give it more power and limit any kickback. Now, the problem may be that the mole bounces off the rock instead of passing, so adding more pressure can help dig it. But pushing down is not what the hand was designed for, and therefore testing with models on Earth would be so important before they tried them on a craftsman for $ 800 million on Mars.
landing, there are no fixes on the Red Planet. "If you make a mistake, she's gone," Span says. But he also points out that if the mole begins to dig freely again, it can reach its target depth for about four hours, and it has a lot of energy left to do it. InSight itself works on solar energy and is designed for two Earth years. InSight arrived only on Mars in November, so it has plenty of time.
If the worst case occurs and the mole can not continue, Spohn admits: "We would lose a significant amount of science." descend at least 10 feet to reach its goal of measuring the heat flow from the interior of Mars. "But it still needs to be done," he says. Other InSight tools work as planned, and they will still receive information from the foot of Mars, which InSight was able to dig. "It will still be things that have not been done before," Span says. "Not as bold as originally planned, but still a good science."