5. March 2019

In­Sight mis­sion: the Mars ‘Mole’ takes a break

HP3 on the Martian surface
HP3 on the Mar­tian sur­face
Image 1/6, Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/DLR.

HP3 on the Martian surface

DLR's Mars 'Mole' HP3 on the Mar­tian sur­face af­ter be­ing re­leased by the In­Sight lan­der's robot­ic arm.
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 2/6, 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 land­ed on 26 Novem­ber 2018 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), have been placed on the plan­et's sur­face.
HP³ cutaway rendering
HP³ cut­away ren­der­ing
Image 3/6, Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/DLR.

HP³ cutaway rendering

An artist's con­cept of In­Sight's heat probe, called the Heat Phys­i­cal Prop­er­ties Pack­age, or HP³.This an­no­tat­ed cut­away ren­der­ing la­bels var­i­ous parts in­side of the in­stru­ment.JPL man­ages In­Sight for NASA's Sci­ence Mis­sion Di­rec­torate. In­Sight is part of NASA's Dis­cov­ery Pro­gram, man­aged by the agen­cy's Mar­shall Space Flight Cen­ter in Huntsville, Al­aba­ma. Lock­heed Mar­tin Space in Den­ver built the In­Sight space­craft, in­clud­ing its cruise stage and lan­der, and sup­ports space­craft op­er­a­tions for the mis­sion.A num­ber of Eu­ro­pean part­ners, in­clud­ing France's Cen­tre Na­tion­al d'Études Spa­tiales (CNES) and the Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter (DLR), are sup­port­ing the In­Sight mis­sion. CNES and the In­sti­tut de Physique du Globe de Paris (IPGP) pro­vid­ed the Seis­mic Ex­per­i­ment for In­te­ri­or Struc­ture (SEIS) in­stru­ment, with sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tions from the Max Planck In­sti­tute for So­lar Sys­tem Re­search (MPS) in Ger­many, the Swiss Fed­er­al In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­o­gy (ETH Zurich) in Zurich, Switzer­land, Im­pe­ri­al Col­lege Lon­don and Ox­ford Uni­ver­si­ty in the Unit­ed King­dom, and JPL. DLR pro­vid­ed the Phys­i­cal Prop­er­ties Pack­age (HP³) in­stru­ment, with sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tions from the Space Re­search Cen­ter (CBK) of the Pol­ish Acade­my of Sci­ences and As­tron­i­ka in Poland. Spain’s Cen­tro de As­tro­bi­ología (CAB) sup­plied the wind sen­sors.
HP³ Mole penetrometer
On 12 Febru­ary 2019 at 19:18 CET, DLR's Mars "Mole" was re­leased on­to the Mar­tian sur­face with the robot­ic arm of the NASA lan­der In­Sight.
Image 4/6, Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/DLR.

On 12 February 2019 at 19:18 CET, DLR's Mars "Mole" was released onto the Martian surface with the robotic arm of the NASA lander InSight.

HP³ Mole pen­etrom­e­ter an­i­ma­tion
Construction of the InSight lander
The In­Sight lan­der near­ing its com­ple­tion
Image 5/6, Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltechn/Lockheed Martin Space.

The InSight lander nearing its completion

Lock­heed Mar­tin Space con­struct­ed the In­Sight lan­der for NASA. The In­Sight lan­der will car­ry two ma­jor ex­per­i­ments, the Heat Flow and Phys­i­cal Prop­er­ties Probe (HP³) and the Seis­mic Ex­per­i­ment for In­te­ri­or Struc­ture (SEIS), to Mars, where a robot­ic arm will place them be­side the space­craft af­ter land­ing.
InSight lander on the Martian surface
'Self­ie' of the In­Sight lan­der on the Mar­tian sur­face
Image 6/6, Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

'Selfie' of the InSight lander on the Martian surface

In­Sight's first com­plete 'self­ie' on Mars. It shows the so­lar ar­rays and the plat­form of the lan­der. On the plat­form are its sci­en­tif­ic in­stru­ments and the UHF an­ten­na.
  • The Mars ‘Mole’ began hammering into the surface on 28 February.
  • It may have come up against a rock or something else that is proving highly resistant beneath the surface.
  • The researchers will analyse the data before it can continue hammering.
  • Focus: Space, exploration

As part of NASA’s InSight mission, the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) developed a penetrometer designed to dig three to five metres below the surface of Mars and measure the heat emanating from the planet’s interior. After the Mars ‘Mole’ began hammering into the ground on Thursday 28 February, the probe, which is part of DLR’s HP3 (Heat and Physical Properties Package) instrument, came about three-quarters of the way out of its housing structure before stopping. Data also suggests that the 'Mole' is at a 15-degree tilt.

“The team has therefore decided to pause the hammering for about two weeks to allow the situation to be analysed more closely and jointly come up with strategies for overcoming the obstacle,” writes Tilman Spohn of the DLR Institute of Planetary Research, Principal Investigator of the HP3 experiment, on his InSight mission blog. The researchers suspect that the Mole has hit a rock or some gravel. The team had hoped that there would be relatively few rocks beneath the soil, as images of the landing site show only a few on the surface near the landing module. In principle, the Mars Mole has been designed to push smaller stones aside, and proved capable of such a feat in tests conducted before it was launched for Mars

Thermal conductivity measurements get under way

All of the data received show that the Mole is continuing to work as expected: after heating up by 28 degrees Celsius during the hammering process, it measured how quickly heat dissipated into the soil as it cooled down. This property, known as thermal conductivity, helps to determine the heat flow from deep inside the planet. Once the Mole is deep enough, it will be possible to calculate the heat flow with greater accuracy.

The researchers will carry out more measurements this week in order to gauge the thermal conductivity of the upper layer of the Martian soil (regolith) more precisely. In addition, the radiometer on InSight’s deck will be used to analyse temperature changes in the soil caused as Phobos moves in front of the Sun. Phobos’ shadow will cross the radiometer’s field of view three times this week, rather like an eclipse of the Sun on Earth, and the instrument will measure the result.

The HP³ Instrument instrument on NASA’s InSight mission

The InSight mission is being carried out by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, on behalf of the agency’s Science Mission Directorate. InSight is part of NASA’s Discovery Program. DLR is contributing the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP³) experiment to the mission. The scientific leadership lies with the DLR Institute of Planetary Research, which was also in charge of developing and implementing the experiment in collaboration with the DLR Institutes of Space Systems, Optical Sensor Systems, Space Operations and Atronaut Training, Composite Structures and Adaptive Systems, and System Dynamics and Control, as well as the Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics. Participating industrial partners are Astronika and the CBK Space Research Centre, Magson GmbH and Sonaca SA, the Leibniz Institute of Photonic Technology (IPHT) as well as Astro- und Feinwerktechnik Adlershof GmbH. Scientific partners are the ÖAW Space Research Institute at the Austrian Academy of Sciences and the University of Kaiserslautern. The DLR Microgravity User Support Center (MUSC) in Cologne is responsible for HP³ operations. In addition, the DLR Space Administration, with funding from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, supported a contribution by the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research to the French main instrument SEIS (Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure).

Detailed information on the InSight mission and the HP³ experiment is available on DLR’s dedicated mission site with extensive background articles. You can also find information in the animation and brochure about the mission or via the hashtag #MarsMaulwurf on the DLR Twitter channel. Tilman Spohn, the Principal Investigator for the HP³ experiment, is also providing updates in the DLR Blog portal about the activities of the Mars Mole.

Contact
  • Falk Dambowsky
    Ed­i­tor
    Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter (DLR)
    Me­dia Re­la­tions
    Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and Me­dia Re­la­tions
    Telephone: +49 2203 601-3959
    Fax: +49 2203 601-3249
    Linder Höhe
    51147 Cologne
    Contact
  • Christian Krause
    Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter (DLR)
    Mi­cro­grav­i­ty Us­er Sup­port Cen­ter (MUSC)
    Op­er­a­tion: HP³, STATIL
    Linder Höhe
    51147 Cologne
    Contact
  • Torben Wippermann
    Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter (DLR)
    In­sti­tute of Space Sys­tems
    Telephone: +49 421 24420-1120
    Robert-Hooke-Straße 7
    28359 Bremen
  • 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
    Contact
  • 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
    Contact
  • Matthias Grott
    Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter (DLR)
    In­sti­tute of Plan­e­tary Re­search, Plan­e­tary Geodesy
    Telephone: +49 30 67055-419

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

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