Last we heard of InSight, a part of one of its instruments was in trouble.
The Heat and Physical Properties Package’s (HP3) drilling device, known as the mole, was meant to dig 16 ft below Mars’ surface to measure heat coming from inside the planet. According to NASA, “It will tell scientists whether Earth and Mars are made of the same stuff, and how heat flows inside Mars.”
However, in late February, the descent came to an unexpected halt after the mole made it only “three-fourths of the way out of its housing structure,” NASA reported at the time. The data indicated the mole was sitting at a 15-degree tilt, proposing the instrument encountered a rock or gravel. Afterward, drilling temporarily ceased so the team could figure out the next course of action.
Updates on the matter still yield much to be desired. According to NASA’s report of a logbook from Instrument Lead Tilman Spohn of German Aerospace Center (DLR), “little clarity” persists as to whether the instrument encountered “a single rock or a layer of gravel.” This month, however, the team aims to conduct “a 10-to-15-minute hammering test. That will allow InSight’s seismometer to ‘listen’ to the mole striking whatever obstacle it has hit, offering possible clues as to what may be blocking it.”
During the event, InSight’s robotic arm will capture images of the mole’s support structure, trying to catch a glimpse of hammering-induced motion shots.
Tests will also be underway here on Earth to help solve the issue. A replica of HP3 will make its way to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in April. DLR engineers have similar models, so both teams will be able to continue their search for answers.
Filed Under: Aerospace + defense