How many Mars landers are there

Mars mission InSight - German mole ends excavation

"Mars and our brave mole simply did not go together," said Tilman Spohn, DLR Institute for Planetary Research, dismaying the failed mission. Although the mole was developed from soil analysis by NASA rovers like 'Spirit' and 'Opportunity', the soil in the landing area turned out to be "completely different from anything we've seen before," says Troy Hudson of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory NASA (JPL).

Mars mole only gets half a meter instead of five meters

The remotely controlled Mars mole HP3 was supposed to dig itself up to five meters deep into the Martian soil in just a few weeks - for the first time in the history of space travel. It started on February 28, 2019 and only got about half a meter by January 2021. Now the drilling has been completely stopped.

HP3 first tilts, then it engages reverse gear

The first 4,000 hammer blows at the end of February 2019 brought the HP3 35 centimeters into the ground, but then the drill suddenly tilted. Initially, the scientific director of the HP3 experiment, Tilman Spohn from the DLR Institute for Planetary Research, feared that the Mars mole had encountered hard resistance like a stone. In the meantime, however, the researchers suspect that, on the contrary, it was the insufficient resistance of the Martian soil that inhibited the drill.

The recoil of the hammer blows of the drill was so great due to the low friction of the regolith in the Mars rock that HP3 kept jumping out of its freshly dug hole or screwing itself out instead of in. The DLR then tried to push the Mars mole into the borehole with the shovel of a robot arm, and later it was forced to work by the pressure of a robot. But in vain. The Mars mole made no significant progress.

© NASA / JPL-Clatech
Image rights: NASA / JPL-Clatech

The shovel of a robot arm presses on the drill bit HP3. But the Mars mole did not advance even by force.

What the Mars mole was looking for deep in the Martian soil

In depth, HP3 (Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package) was supposed to measure the temperature and thermal conductivity of the underground material in order to use the data to contribute to a better understanding of the formation and development of earth-like bodies. The DLR scientists also hoped to gain further clues as to whether the red planet still has a hot, liquid core.

The probe should work its way deeper in small steps. To do this, she used a fully automatic, electrically driven hammer mechanism and pulled a flat cable equipped with measuring sensors into the Martian floor behind her.

Mission InSight - Two years of research on Mars

The stationary geophysical observatory InSight landed on Mars on November 26, 2018 after an almost seven-month journey through space. In the course of the NASA mission, the development, structure and physical properties of the crust, mantle and core of our neighboring planet should be researched over the next two years.

Quakes and poles are measured on Mars

Besides HP3, InSight has also deployed the marsquake observatory SEIS (Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure) on the Red Planet, which was built under the leadership of the French space agency CNES. In addition to SEIS and HP3, the InSight mission also includes the American experiment RISE (Rotation and Interior Structure Experiment), which is supposed to record fluctuations in the polar axis of Mars.

© Bayerischer Rundfunk
Image rights: BR

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