The InSight probe is preparing to drill a 5 metre hole on Mars

Research lander InSight space Agency NASA continues to prepare for the early science phase of its mission. According to the official website of the Agency, the lander deployed on the surface of the red planet the second tool, with which you plan to learn more about the internal structure and composition of Mars. We are talking about the device Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) that was installed in the meter from a previously installed seismometer.

Device HP3 (“Set the study of Heat Flow and Physical Properties”) is a scientific instrument designed to measure heat flow under the surface of Mars. Thanks to the data collected by this apparatus, scientists can better understand how the Red planet formed. To solve the problem the unit must be installed deeply into the ground.

After a few days, InSight will start drilling at a depth of 5 meters, significantly more than the results that were achieved by other machines working on Mars. For example, the landing module “Phoenix” and “Viking 1” was able to drill holes with a depth of only 18 and 22 cm, respectively. After HP3 will be released at a given depth in the hole will be placed a device called a “mole.” It is a 40-centimeter probe pointed shape with a pneumatic mechanism, a power which will be supplied through the cable connected to the lander.


Device tool HP3

While integrated in the cable sensors will perform measurements of temperature, the mole will deal with measurement of heat flow. Being under the ground, the tools will be isolated from effects of external temperature fluctuations caused by changing time of day or seasonal changes.

“Our probe designed for measuring temperatures below the surface of Mars. Temperature changes on the surface associated with seasonal transitions and cycles of day and night, can lead to “noise” in our data, so we want to go deeper under the surface as deep as possible”, — says the Deputy head of mission InSight sue Smrekar from the jet propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

To carry out drilling plans to gradually step by step and has a depth of 50 inches below the surface. Between each phase of drilling is planned to take two days break to created by the friction of the drill on the breed heat has time to dissipate without creating additional thermal noise. Then in the hole for 24 hours would be artificially maintained temperature of 10 degrees Celsius and carried out measurements of the thermal conductivity of the planet.

The researchers hope that the path of the drill will not be of large stones. If the probe cannot reach the minimum required depth is 3 meters, to carry out accurate measurements can take a whole Martian year (two earth).


Test probe HP3 in Germany

“We have chosen in our opinion the perfect place to land, where almost no stones on the surface, says the scientist and engineer JPL Troy Hudson, who helped design the probe HP3. — It gives us hope that also should not contain large stones, but what awaits us actually – will show time”.

“The mass of the probe HP3 is less than the weight of the Shoe. It consumes less power than Wi-Fi router. Development of a device that can withstand tens of thousands of hits when drilling and not to fall apart, require huge amount of time and work. Some installation options are unable to achieve the target of 4.88 meters, but the installation version, which ultimately went to Mars, has proven its efficiency and reliability,” adds the expert.

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