Technology

InSight probe prepares to drill a 5 meter hole on Mars

Research landing gear InSightNASA Aerospace Agency continues to prepare for the beginning of the scientific phase of its mission. According to the agency’s official website, the module deployed a second instrument on the surface of the Red Planet, with the help of which it is planned to learn more about the internal structure and composition of Mars. We are talking about the device Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3), which was installed in the meter from the previously installed seismometer.

HP3 device ("Heat Flow Learning Kitand Physical Properties ”) is a scientific instrument designed to measure the heat flux below the surface of Mars. Thanks to the data collected by this device, scientists can better understand how the Red Planet was formed. To solve the problem, the device must be placed deep in the ground.

InSight will start drilling in a few days.to a depth of 5 meters, which is significantly more than the results that were achieved by other devices that worked on Mars. For example, the landing modules "Phoenix" and "Viking-1" were able to drill holes with a depth of only 18 and 22 centimeters, respectively. After HP3 reaches a predetermined depth, a device called the mole will be placed in the hole created by it. It is a 40-centimeter probe of a pointed shape with a fender mechanism, which will be powered by a cable connected to the landing module.


HP3 tool device

As long as the sensors integrated into the cable areto conduct temperature measurements, the mole will measure the heat fluxes. Being underground, the tools will be isolated from the effects of external temperature fluctuations caused by the change of time of day or seasonal changes.

“Our probe is designed to measure temperatureindicators under the surface of Mars. Temperature changes on the surface associated with seasonal transitions and changing day and night cycles can lead to "noise" in our data, so we want to sink as deep as possible under the surface, "says InSight Deputy Head of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory ( JPL).

Drilling is planned gradually, step by step.step deep into 50 centimeters below the surface. Between each drilling phase, it is planned to take a two-day break so that the heat created as a result of friction of the drill with the rock has time to completely dissipate without creating additional thermal “noise”. Then, a temperature of 10 degrees Celsius will be artificially kept in the hole for 24 hours and the thermal conductivity of the planet will be measured.

Researchers hope that on the way of the drillthere are big stones. If the probe cannot reach the minimum required depth of 3 meters, then accurate measurements can take an entire Martian year (two terrestrial).


HP3 probe test in Germany

“In our opinion, we have chosen the ideal place forlanding where there are almost no stones on the surface, ”says JPL scientist and engineer Troy Hudson, who helped design the HP3 probe. “It gives us hope that there are also no large stones under it, but time is waiting for us in fact.”

“The mass of the HP3 probe itself is less than the mass of the boots. It consumes less power than a Wi-Fi router. Developing a device capable of withstanding tens of thousands of blows while drilling and without falling apart, required a huge amount of time and work. Some of the first installation options could not reach the level of 4.88 meters, but the installation version, which eventually went to Mars, proved its efficiency and reliability, ”adds the expert.

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