There is a new plan to support the German Aerospace Center (DLR) Mars ‘Mole’ that is part of NASA’s InSight mission. The Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) Mole is a self-driving penetrator that has hammered itself into the Martian subsurface to a depth of approximately 30 centimetres.
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.
On 28 February 2019, the German Aerospace Center (DLR) ‘Mole’ fully automatically hammered its way into the Martian subsurface for the first time. In a first step, it penetrated to a depth between 18 and 50 centimetres into the Martian soil with 4000 hammer blows over a period of four hours. "On its way into the depths, the mole seems to have hit a stone, tilted about 15 degrees and pushed it aside or passed it," reports Tilman Spohn, Principal Investigator of the HP3 experiment. "The Mole then worked its way up against another stone at an advanced depth until the planned four-hour operating time of the first sequence expired. Tests on Earth showed that the rod-shaped penetrometer is able to push smaller stones to the side, which is very time-consuming.
It stands vertically on flat ground, ready for its historic mission. At 19:18 CET on 12 February 2019, the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP³) or 'Mole' was deployed on the Martian surface using the NASA InSight mission's robotic arm.
It was a task that required centimetre precision. Over the last few weeks, researchers from the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) have measured every rock shown in the images of the InSight landing site and used the radiometer that is part of the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP³) experiment to analyse the dust on the surface of Mars, in order to determine the ideal point for deploying the InSight mission's instruments.
Just a few weeks from now, the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) HP3 Mole will start hammering its way automatically into the subsoil of the Red Planet to measure its inner heat.
On 26 November 2018, NASA's InSight probe is expected to land on Mars' Elysium Planitia plain at a 4.5 degrees north and135.9 degrees east. This video shows a flight over the landing site and surrounding area. It was produced based on a digital terrain model calculated using stereo image data from DLR's High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC).
It will be the deepest hole ever hammered into another celestial body using manmade technology. During the NASA InSight mission, the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3), the Mole, which was developed and built by the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) will penetrate up to five metres deep into the Martian soil to measure the temperature and thermal conductivity of the substrate materials there. This glimpse of the interior of the Red Planet will help us to better understand the formation and evolution of Earth-like bodies.
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.
The first 1480 kilometres from Denver to the launch site at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California have been completed – aboard an aircraft. The InSight (Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport) lander will now have to travel the remaining 485 million kilometres to Mars alone, following its planned launch on 5 May 2018.
The German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) will send the 'Mole' HP³ (Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package) to Mars on board the United States InSight Mission on 5 May 2018 to conduct heat flow measurements. And it has just received good news: the landing site in the plains of Elysium Planitia most probably has a heat flow that is classified average, and will therefore be representative of Mars as a whole.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has finally confirmed the new launch date for the InSight mission, with the first launch opportunity to the Red Planet set for 5 May 2018. The mission was in fact scheduled for launch in March 2016, and land on Mars six months later.
In December 2015, the Mars mission InSight was put on hold, but it has now been provisionally scheduled to launch to the Red Planet at the next opportunity – in May 2018. Technical difficulties with one of the two main experiments – the seismometer – had led to the US space agency, NASA, cancelling the launch that had been planned for March 2016. Now, a decision has been made – the mission has been given a reprieve, and a new launch date in two years' time.
After the successful landing of the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover, NASA has selected one more lander mission to Mars. The InSight mission will reach Mars in September 2016, after a six-month journey; it has been designed to take a 'look' into the deep interior of the Red Planet; it will do this with geophysical experiments including DLR's HP3, which will penetrate several metres into the Martian subsurface to measure the soil's thermo-physical and electrical properties.