2023 Author: Bryan Walter | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-05-21 22:24
The HP3 (Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package) tool, which is supposed to drill a five-meter borehole in the soil of Mars to study heat flows, has been suspended for two weeks. The drill was unable to overcome an obstacle in the ground, which is most likely a small rock or rock fragment. The mission's engineers are currently developing a program for the further operation of the tool, yet hoping to overcome the obstacle, according to the mission's website.
The start of the new automatic exploration mission InSight (Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport) took place in May 2018; the main task is to study the internal structure of Mars and the geological processes going on in its depths. Landing on the surface of the Red Planet took place on November 26, 2018 in the Elysium Highlands. After landing, the station successfully deployed solar panels and transmitted images to Earth, thanks to which it became clear that it had landed in a small impact crater covered with sand and dust, and slightly tilted to the side. Subsequently, the mission engineers, using a 2.4-meter IDA robotic arm with a camera attached to it, conducted a visual inspection of the landing platform, and examined the working area on the ground next to the station.
In mid-December last year, a SEIS seismograph was lowered to the surface of Mars, and at the beginning of February 2019, a wind and heat-insulating cap was covered with a robotic arm, and on February 12, 2019, the second scientific instrument of the mission, HP3 (Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package), which is designed to measure heat fluxes in Martian soil and is a thermal tape with temperature sensors made of platinum, heaters and tilt sensors attached to it to determine the position of the instrument. The tape is inserted into the soil using an electromechanical 40-cm rod penetrometer capable of immersing into the soil to a maximum depth of five meters. The device will be able to obtain some information about the mineral composition based on the data on the thermal conductivity of different areas of the soil.
On February 28, 2019, the drill started work for the first time, but did not reach the planned depth of 70 centimeters due to the fact that it collided with a piece of rock or a stone that interfered with the further process. It was assumed that he was able to displace or bend the stone, but the second stage of drilling, which took place on March 2 and lasted four hours, did not give significant results - the drill did not advance further, and its inclination of about 15 degrees relative to the vertical axis was preserved. As a result, the engineering team decided to suspend the drill for two weeks in order to develop a plan to overcome the obstacle, since the design of the device allows it to do so. The thermal sensors of the probe function normally, detecting the thermal conductivity of the environment.
You can read about how the InSigh scientific instruments work and other details of the mission in our article "Look inside the Red Planet", and about the mysteries of Martian geology, you can read about the mysteries of Martian geology in our other article "Seismograph for Mars".