May 2018 saw the launch of the NASA InSight mission, in which a lander will carry out geophysical measurements directly on the surface of Mars to explore the planet's inner structure and thermal balance. The German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) has contributed to this mission in the form of the HP3 instrument. On 26 November 2018, InSight touched down north of the equator, on the Elysium Planitia plain. Following a test phase, the experiments will commence after the 2018/19 turn of the year. The duration of the mission is initially set at one Mars year, which corresponds to approximately two Earth years.
For the first time since the astronaut mission Apollo 17 in 1972, heat flow measurements will be carried out on another celestial body using a drilling mechanism. The main aim of the experiment is to be able to determine the thermal state of the interior of Mars using thermal flow measurements taken beneath the surface. Models of Mars’ formation, chemical composition and inner structure can be checked and refined on the basis of this data. The measurements from Mars can also be used to draw conclusions about Earth’s early development.
Animation: "HP3 - a small probe that will hammer five metres deep into the Martian soil (NASA’s InSight mission)"
In this logbook, Instrument PI Tilman Spohn who is at NASA in Pasadena, USA, gives us the latest updates regarding the InSight mission and our HP3 instrument - the 'Mole' - which will hammer into the Martian surface.
Animation: InSight - journey to Mars (HP3 instrument)
Follow (from the end of February) how deep the Mars 'Mole' has burrowed into the Martian surface live in our virtual control room.
Image gallery containing images acquired by the NASA InSight mission.
A blue box, a cubic metre of Mars-like sand, a rock, a fully-functional model of the Mars 'Mole' and a seismometer – these are the main components with which the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) is simulating the current situation on Mars.
The German Aerospace Center (DLR) will command the Mars ‘Mole’ to begin a short new round of hammering at the end of March. The seismometer and the camera will closely monitor the movement of the Mole. The researchers want to analyse in more detail the situation of the self-hammering probe, which has shown no further progress since it reached a depth of approximately 30 centimetres at the beginning of March. Different ideas for releasing the Mole require a more detailed analysis of the situation and at least a few more weeks to test different strategies on Earth.
As part of NASA’s InSight mission, the German Aerospace Center (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.