3. May 2018
The DLR experiment HP3 will be the first to fully automatically burrow five metres into the Martian soil

Ham­mer­ing down to Mar­tian depths – count­down to NASA's In­Sight mis­sion

Artist’s impression of the NASA InSight lander on the Martian surface
Artist’s im­pres­sion of the NASA In­Sight lan­der on the Mar­tian sur­face
Image 1/8, Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Artist’s impression of the NASA InSight lander on the Martian surface

Launched on 5 May 2018, NASA’s In­Sight space­craft will land on 26 Novem­ber, just north of the Mar­tian equa­tor, and de­ploy its so­lar pan­els. SEIS, an in­stru­ment for record­ing seis­mic waves (left of im­age), and HP3, an in­stru­ment de­vel­oped by DLR to mea­sure the ther­mal con­duc­tiv­i­ty of the Mar­tian re­golith and the heat flow from the in­te­ri­or of the plan­et (right of im­age), will be placed on the sur­face of the plan­et pos­si­bly be­fore the turn of the year.
The landing site for the InSight mission in Elysium Planitia
The land­ing site for the In­Sight mis­sion in Ely­si­um Plani­tia
Image 2/8, Credit: NASA/JPL/USGS (MOLA).

The landing site for the InSight mission in Elysium Planitia

For the In­Sight mis­sion, a land­ing area was sought that had to meet sev­er­al sci­en­tif­ic cri­te­ria, but above all space sys­tems en­gi­neer­ing cri­te­ria. For a se­cure en­er­gy sup­ply from so­lar pow­er and to avoid ex­treme di­ur­nal and sea­son­al tem­per­a­ture vari­a­tions, it could not be too far north or south of the equa­tor, it had to be flat and, as far as pos­si­ble, not cov­ered by rocks. Af­ter a long se­lec­tion pro­cess, en­gi­neers and sci­en­tists se­lect­ed an area in a plain south­west of the large vol­canic com­plex sur­round­ing Ely­si­um Mons. The cho­sen site is in Ely­si­um Plani­tia, north of the Mar­tian equa­tor and the high­land bor­der – just a few hun­dred kilo­me­tres north of Gale Crater (be­low the ‘4’ in the lat­i­tude la­bel), in which the NASA rover Cu­rios­i­ty has been driv­ing since 2012. The im­age is a sec­tion of a glob­al to­po­graph­ic map of Mars; blue and green are low-ly­ing ar­eas, yel­low and red are el­e­vat­ed ter­rain. The im­age is about 5000 kilo­me­tres wide.
What is the in­te­ri­or of Mars like?
Image 3/8, Credit: JPL/NASA.

What is the interior of Mars like?

The In­Sight mis­sion will in­ves­ti­gate the in­ter­nal struc­ture of Mars and the pro­cess­es at play in­side the plan­et to ac­quire a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of the for­ma­tion and evo­lu­tion of earth-like plan­ets. Sim­i­lar to the oth­er ter­res­tri­al plan­ets – Mer­cury, Venus, Earth and the Moon – Mars has a metal­lic core sur­round­ed by a rocky man­tle, over which lies a rocky crust. Ac­cord­ing to mod­el cal­cu­la­tions, the core has a tem­per­a­ture of about 1900 de­grees Cel­sius and could still be molten if it con­tains a sig­nif­i­cant amount of sul­phur. This is one of the ques­tions that the In­Sight mis­sion will ad­dress. The mis­sion will al­so con­duct a study of seis­mic ac­tiv­i­ty and mea­sure the me­te­orite im­pact rate on Mars.
The HP3 experiment
The HP3 ex­per­i­ment
Image 4/8, Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

The HP3 experiment

The Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter (Deutsches Zen­trum für Luft- und Raum­fahrt; DLR) con­tribut­ed the HP3 ex­per­i­ment for NASA's In­Sight mis­sion. HP3 stands for ‘Heat Flow and Phys­i­cal Prop­er­ties Pack­age’; it was de­vel­oped pri­mar­i­ly at the DLR In­sti­tute of Plan­e­tary Re­search. A pen­etrom­e­ter ca­pa­ble of ham­mer­ing it­self five me­tres deep in­to the Mar­tian sub­sur­face was in­tend­ed to mea­sure the ther­mal con­duc­tiv­i­ty of the soil be­neath the land­ing site and de­ter­mine the amount of heat flow­ing from the in­te­ri­or of Mars to the sur­face. The ex­per­i­ment was de­signed to run for two years. The main com­po­nents of HP3 are the 'Mole' and a rib­bon ca­ble fit­ted with tem­per­a­ture sen­sors, which the Mole was de­signed to pull be­hind it in­to the sub­sur­face.
In­stru­ments and tech­ni­cal com­po­nents of In­Sight
Image 5/8, Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Instruments and technical components of InSight

In­Sight’s struc­tural de­sign is sim­i­lar to that of NASA’s Phoenix lan­der from 2008. The main com­po­nent is a plat­form two me­tres in di­am­e­ter, on which most of the sys­tem com­po­nents – the ex­per­i­ments in their ‘trans­port mode’, the an­ten­nas, the on-board com­put­er, the thrusters, the pro­pel­lant tanks and three tele­scop­ic legs are at­tached. A robot­ic arm will be de­ployed af­ter land­ing and lift the ex­per­i­ments HP3 and SEIS from the plat­form on­to the Mar­tian sur­face. At the side of the plat­form are two so­lar pan­els, which pro­duce a max­i­mum of 700 watts, de­pend­ing on the dis­tance be­tween Mars and the Sun. The RISE ex­per­i­ment is con­duct­ed from the plat­form it­self.
Sen­si­tive tilt­meter in the ‘Mole’ with fit­ted ‘galaxy springs’
Image 6/8, Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)

Sensitive tiltmeter in the ‘Mole’ with fitted ‘galaxy springs’

A spe­cial sys­tem iso­lates the sen­sors from the im­pacts and in do­ing so min­imis­es their ex­po­sure to stress. For this pur­pose, the STATIL sys­tem is fit­ted with spe­cial­ly patent­ed dou­ble he­lix springs – al­so known as ‘galaxy springs’.
The RAD ra­diome­ter for the HP3 ex­per­i­ment
Image 7/8, Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)

The RAD radiometer for the HP3 experiment

The DLR HP3 ex­per­i­ment al­so in­cludes the RAD ra­diome­ter, which is mount­ed on the lan­der plat­form. This de­ter­mines the tem­per­a­ture of the Mar­tian sur­face by ob­serv­ing its in­frared ra­di­a­tion. The sur­face can reach a max­i­mum of just over 20 de­grees Cel­sius dur­ing the day, but can fall be­low mi­nus 70 de­grees Cel­sius at night. Knowl­edge of the sur­face tem­per­a­ture is im­por­tant in or­der to be able to cal­cu­late dis­tur­bances in the tem­per­a­ture dis­tri­bu­tion in the sub­sur­face. RAD was built at the DLR In­sti­tute of Op­ti­cal Sen­sor Sys­tems.
The names of 2.4 mil­lion peo­ple are trav­el­ling to Mars on In­Sight
Image 8/8, Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Lockheed Martin.

The names of 2.4 million people are travelling to Mars on InSight

An en­gi­neer from Lock­heed Mar­tin Space, the cor­po­ra­tion that con­struct­ed the In­Sight lan­der for NASA, places one of two sil­i­con mi­crochips on the Mars lan­der plat­form in a clean room. The names of 1.6 mil­lion peo­ple from all over the world have been en­graved on an eight by eight mil­lime­tre area; these peo­ple reg­is­tered to join the mis­sion or­gan­ised by NASA and will now take part in the al­most 500-mil­lion-kilo­me­tre jour­ney – and then re­main on Mars for­ev­er. A sec­ond chip con­tains 800,000 ad­di­tion­al names. NASA en­gi­neers used an elec­tron beam to en­grave them in ex­treme­ly small font to ac­com­mo­date the names of all the ‘pas­sen­gers’. The lines are nar­row­er than one-thou­sandth the width of a hu­man hair, which them­selves on­ly have an av­er­age thick­ness of ap­prox­i­mate­ly 0.05 mil­lime­tres.

  • Exploring the interior of Mars – at present, the inner structure of Mars and the nature and size of the Martian core are not yet fully understood
  • The mission will provide new insights into how Mars' interior and rocky planets like Earth have developed and evolved
  • DLR is supplying key German technology that enables the measurement of physical parameters in remote places on Earth
  • Focus: Space, exploration

<p>The formation of planets and the occurrence of volcanism and earthquakes are determined by the thermally driven forces acting inside a planet. Continents and life as we know it emerged on Earth. On Mars, the internal development dynamics slowed rapidly. To decipher the interior of Mars and its past in more detail, and to find out what makes Earth so unique, an Atlas launch vehicle will lift off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 13:05 CEST (04:05 local time) on 5 May, carrying NASA's Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) lander to Mars. Upon its arrival on 26 November 2018, InSight will touch down just north of the equator, on the Elysium Planitia plain, where it will commence its work as a geophysical observatory. This will be the first mission to Mars to focus on exploring the planet's interior and its 4.5-billion-year history. The German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) is contributing one of the three principal experiments of the NASA InSight mission, HP<sup>3</sup> – a small probe that will hammer five metres deep into the Martian soil to measure temperature and thermal conductivity at various depths to determine the heat flow from deep inside the planet. The resource-saving key technology developed by DLR has already been used in road construction in China, for agriculture in Poland and in avalanche surveillance in Switzerland.</p> <p class="Zwischenueberschrift">More precise knowledge of Mars' interior and other terrastial planets</p> <p>"The InSight mission fulfils the long-standing desire of planetary scientists to operate a geophysical observatory on a terrestrial planet," explains Tilman Spohn from the <a href="http://www.dlr.de/pf" target="_blank">DLR Institute of Planetary Research</a> and Principal Investigator of the HP<sup>3</sup> experiment. "Mars is an ideal destination – easy to reach and comparable with Earth," Spohn continues. "The processes that played out after the formation of a metallic core at the Martian centre, its surrounding rocky mantle and the crust slowed down much earlier than on Earth." It is therefore possible that the 'fingerprints' of the events that led to the formation of an earth-like planetary core, mantle and crust have been preserved to this day. "Understanding how this occurred on Mars will enable us to acquire a far better insight into the events that unfolded on Earth up to the emergence and continued existence of life, as well as into the evolution of the Moon, Venus and Mercury. It might even allow us to learn a great deal about the formation of rocky planets around other stars – or extrasolar planets." The researchers are curious as to whether – as in Earth’s interior – a hot molten core is at the heart of Mars.</p> <p class="Zwischenueberschrift">Launch from the United States West Coast</p> <p><a href="https://mars.nasa.gov/insight/" target="_blank">InSight</a> was selected in August 2012 as the twelfth Discovery Mission. Like all previous missions in this NASA programme, InSight is a comparatively small mission targeted at a specific subject within planetary research. Together with the upper stage for injection into a transfer orbit, the total mission mass is just 727 kilograms, and the actual lander weighs just 360 kilograms. This makes it possible to launch the mission from the US airbase at Vandenberg, California, using an Atlas V-401 launch vehicle. It will be the first time for a planetary mission to be launched from this NASA site. The 70-metre antennas of NASA's Deep Space Network in California, Australia and Spain will be used to maintain contact with the lander on its voyage to Mars and during the mission itself.</p> <p class="Zwischenueberschrift">A geophysical observatory for the Red Planet</p> <p>The lander’s principal structure is a two-metre-diameter platform carrying most of the system components, namely the experiments in 'travel mode', the antennas, the thrusters, the fuel tanks and three telescopic legs. Upon arrival on Mars, a robotic arm will deploy the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (<a href="https://www.seis-insight.eu/en/" target="_blank">SEIS</a>) onto the surface first. The seismometer will be used to record waves propagating through the planet from marsquakes and from sites impacted by meteors. DLR is also involved scientifically in the SEIS experiment. Afterwards, in early January 2019, the HP<sup>3</sup> experiment developed by DLR will be taken from the platform and lowered onto the Martian ground. HP3 is an abbreviation for Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package. The experiment consists of a housing – referred to as the support structure – placed on the surface of Mars that holds a 40-centimetre-long hammering probe with a diameter of 27 millimetres – nicknamed 'the Mole' by the scientists. Powered by an electric hammering mechanism, it will burrow its way centimetre by centimetre into the surface of Mars over a period of several weeks. The support structure and the 'Mole' were built by the Bremen-based <a href="http://www.dlr.de/irs/en/" target="_target">DLR Institute of Space Systems</a> in cooperation with external partners. For example, the Mole's impact mechanism was developed and built with support from Astronika and the Space Research Centre of the Polish Academy of Sciences (Centrum Badań Kosmicznych; CBK), both located in Warsaw. The maximum achievable depth is five metres.</p> <p class="Zwischenueberschrift">Hammering with 14,000 times gravitational acceleration</p> <p>HP<sup>3</sup> is not a 'drill' as it does not rotate. Instead, the mole advances using a special hammering mechanism in which a spring is repeatedly compressed, causing a hammer to be accelerated forward towards the inner lining of the tip of the 'Mole' each time the spring is released. These impacts generate an acceleration of up to 14,000 times that of Earth's gravity, which is why the sensitive measurement technology inside the probe requires special shock absorption techniques to withstand the stresses. For this reason, the <a href="http://www.dlr.de/rb/en/desktopdefault.aspx/tabid-4535/" target="_blank">DLR Microgravity User Support Center</a> (MUSC) used systems for impact and vibration minimisation devised by the <a href="http://www.dlr.de/fa/en/desktopdefault.aspx" target="_blank">DLR Institute of Composite Structures and Adaptive Systems</a> in Braunschweig. A special system isolates the sensors from the impacts and in doing so minimises their exposure to stress. For this purpose, the system is fitted with specially patented double helix springs – also known as 'galaxy springs'. In addition to the vibration dampening springs in the Mole, methods for equipping the temperature sensors and feed lines on the measuring cable are technical highlights that make use of the Mole on Earth appealing for physical measurements in remote areas with scarce resources.</p> <p class="Zwischenueberschrift">Temperature sensors on the science tether measure the temperature in the subsoil</p> <p>At the heart of the experiment is a tether equipped with temperature sensors – developed by the DLR Institute of Planetary Research – which the Mole pulls into the Martian soil. Once the Mole has reached its final depth below the surface, the system will record ground temperature measurements for up to two years in order to determine the temperature gradient in the subsurface. The sensors are able to measure temperature differences of just a few thousandths of a kelvin (or one degree Celsius), in order to determine the very small geothermal temperature gradient. Mounted on the lander, the experiment also includes the radiometer RAD, which is designed to measure the temperature of the Martian surface. Knowledge of the surface temperature is essential to calculate disturbances in the temperature distribution in the subsurface. RAD was developed and built by the <a href="http://www.dlr.de/os/en/desktopdefault.aspx" target="_target">DLR Institute of Optical Sensor Systems</a>.</p> <p class="Zwischenueberschrift">The HP<sup>3 </sup> instrument on the NASA InSight mission</p> <p>The InSight mission is being conducted by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, on behalf of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. InSight is a mission in the NASA Discovery Programme. DLR is contributing the HP<sup>3</sup> experiment to the mission. Scientific leadership lies with the DLR Institute of Planetary Research, which was also in charge of developing the experiment in collaboration with the DLR institutes of Space Systems, Optical Sensor Systems, Space Operations and Astronaut Training, Composite Structures and Adaptive Systems, System Dynamics and Control, as well as the Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics. Industrial partners are Astronika and the CBK Space Research Centre, Magson GmbH and Sonaca SA. The scientific partners are the ÖAW Space Research Institute in the Austrian Academy of Sciences and the University of Kaiserslautern. The DLR Microgravity User Support Center (MUSC) in Cologne is responsible for HP<sup>3</sup> operations.</p> <div class="infobox"> <div class="infobox-wrap-1"> <div class="infobox-wrap-2"> <ul> <li class="first"> <h4>Using Mars as an example – how does a planetary 'heat engine' work?</h4> <div class="infobox-more"> <div class="infobox-more-padding"> <p>Planets can be perceived as heat engines in a way analogous to steam engines. When they formed, the planets heated up due to the impact of planetesimals on their surface. In addition, the decay of the radioactive elements like uranium, thorium and potassium generated immense heat within the rocky interior. But planets cool over time, leading to changes in their heat balance. We refer to this process as thermal evolution. Heat is transported in the interior of the planet by very slow but powerful convective movements of mantle rock. Put simply, hot rock rises like very viscous tar to the surface, while cold material sinks towards the core. We are familiar with this transport of energy through the circulation of mass, for instance, in a pot of soup on a cooker or by the lava lamps that were popular a while back. The movement of ductile hot, sometimes even molten, rock causes the formation of mountains and the emergence of volcanism on the surface. Here, the planet turns heat into mechanical work, just like a steam engine.</p> </div> </div> </li> <li> <h4>Scientific objectives and tasks of the InSight mission</h4> <div class="infobox-more"> <div class="infobox-more-padding"> <p>The InSight mission is designed to investigate Mars' interior structure and to analyse the processes at play underneath its surface. This is intended to provide a better understanding of the emergence and evolution of terrestrial planets. It will be achieved by:</p> <ul> <li>determining the size, composition and condition (liquid or solid) of the core;</li> <li>determining the thickness and structure of the Martian crust;</li> <li>determining the composition and structure of the rocky mantle of Mars;</li> <li>determining the heat balance of Mars’ interior.</li> </ul> <p>The mission will include analysis of the tectonic activity and meteorite impact rate on the Martian surface, and in doing so will:</p> <ul> <li>determine the strength, frequency and geographic distribution of seismic activity in the planet's interior, and</li> <li>measure the frequency of meteorite impacts on the Martian surface.</li> </ul> <p> </p> </div> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div>

  • Falk Dambowsky
    Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter (DLR)
    Me­dia Re­la­tions
    Telephone: +49 2203 601-3959
    Fax: +49 2203 601-3249
    Linder Höhe
    51147 Cologne
  • Prof.Dr. Tilman Spohn
    HP³ Prin­ci­pal In­ves­ti­ga­tor
    Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter (DLR)

    DLR In­sti­tute of Plan­e­tary Re­search
    Telephone: +49 30 67055-300
    Fax: +49 30 67055-303
    Linder Höhe
    51147 Köln
  • Matthias Grott
    Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter (DLR)
    In­sti­tute of Plan­e­tary Re­search, Plan­e­tary Geodesy
    Telephone: +49 30 67055-419

  • Martin Knapmeyer
    Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter (DLR)
    In­sti­tute of Plan­e­tary Re­search
    Telephone: +49 30 67055-394
    Rutherfordstraße 2
    12489 Berlin
  • Olaf Krömer
    Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter (DLR)

    DLR In­sti­tute of Space Sys­tems
    Telephone: +49 421 24420-1138
    Linder Höhe
    51147 Köln
  • Dr Anko Börner
    Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter (DLR)
    In­sti­tute of Op­ti­cal Sen­sor Sys­tems
    In­sti­tute of Op­ti­cal Sen­sor Sys­tems
    Telephone: +49 30 67055-509
    Rutherfordstraße 2
    12489 Berlin-Adlershof
  • Dr.-Ing. Björn Timo Kletz
    Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter (DLR)

    DLR In­sti­tute of Com­pos­ite Struc­tures and Adap­tive Sys­tems
    Telephone: +49 531 295-3228
    Fax: +49 531 295-2876
    Lilienthalplatz 7
    38108 Braunschweig
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