2023 Author: Bryan Walter | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-05-21 22:24
The drill of the HP3 installation of the Martian station InSight maintains its balance and does not fall - the team of engineers came to this conclusion after analyzing the images of the process of retraction of the bucket, which provided the drill with the necessary friction against the ground. Now the specialists will start drawing up a plan for further actions, the result of which should be the resumption of drilling operations, the mission said on Twitter.
HP3 (The Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package) is one of the main scientific instruments of the automatic station InSight, which is engaged in the study of the internal structure of Mars. It was expected that with the help of a 40-centimeter drill, the station would pierce a five-meter well in the ground, into which he would lower a plume with sensors that collect information on the thermal conductivity of various layers of the Red Planet's soil. But in early March, HP3 halted drilling, barely starting.
Later it turned out that the drill has little adhesion to the surrounding soil, due to which the recoil on impacts does not balance and it does not move deeper, and the walls of the well expanded greatly. The engineers first tried using a small bucket attached to the end of the 2, 4-meter IDA (Instrument Deployment Arm) robotic arm to tamp the soil near the edge of the well, but this did not bring any tangible benefit. After that, it was decided to gently press down on the drill itself to provide it with the necessary grip for work. This plan worked and the drill gradually deepened 4-5 centimeters into the soil over several working sessions.
On October 26, 2019, during operation, the drill unexpectedly half jumped out of the ground. It is believed that this is due to the mechanical properties of the soil in the borehole, which may have crumbled there during previous drilling attempts. The other day, engineers gave the command to the station to carefully raise the bucket and shoot this process, since it was necessary to understand whether the drill itself would fall. The images sent back to Earth showed that the impact probe remains in balance and does not need support. Now the specialists will move the robotic arm back and begin to inspect the well. In the future, the mission team will again try to fix the position of the drill using the bucket, and then will try to continue drilling.
You can read about the details of the InSight scientific program and the mysteries of Martian geology in our materials "Look inside the Red Planet" and "Seismograph for Mars".