Today, NASA announced It was giving up its attempts to place a temperature sensor several meters below the surface of Mars. As part of the agency’s InSight landing craft, the devices were supposed to be located deep enough to avoid the influence of Mars weather, seasons and daily temperature changes. But due to the unusual conditions at the landing site, the device never reached below the surface.
InSight carried several tools aimed at providing a clearer picture of Mars’ geology. One of these tools, the SEIS seismometer, has successfully tracked swamps to provide a better perspective of Mars’ structure and local subsurface mounting near the landing site. The second measures the wobbling of Mars’ rotational axis, which will be influenced by a combination of the formation of the red planet and the gravitational effects of the rest of the solar system.
The other major InSight Experience is the Heat Flow and Physical Properties package, or HP3. While the previous landing did not put any device deeper than about 20 cm, HP3 It was designed to operate several meters below the surface of Mars. From there, the fluctuations at the surface will be averaged to a certain extent, and HP3 Heat flow can be measured from Mars’ interior to the surface. This will allow the residual energy in Mars’ core to be estimated from a combination of its composition and radioactivity, and is a key element in understanding geological activity that may still be possible there.
However, the 3-meter drill will not fit well on the landing craft. Authorized HP3 It was delivered to operating depth by a device called “Mole”. The mole is designed to push devices below the surface by increasing the friction between them and the soil of Mars; He would anchor himself, push a part of himself deeper with that anchor, then come forward and repeat the process.
It turned out that there was a problem with this plan: the soil didn’t allow enough friction to do any of this. Now, after nearly a year of trying and a large variety of troubleshooting techniques, task managers accept that the plan won’t work. This follows a recent attempt, which involved using a robotic scoop on InSight to pile soil over the mole and try to squeeze it to provide more leverage.
Obviously, it didn’t work because the soil properties at the InSight landing site were different from projections from elsewhere on Mars. So, in this sense, we learned something from experience. Remaining InSight tools continue to operate as planned. But we have to wait for another lander to take the temperature of Mars.