The International Information Center for Geotechnical Engineers

Friday, 08 March 2019 12:30

NASA's InSight lander stops drilling after hitting an impenetrable material

NASA's InSight lander stops drilling after hitting a rock block NASA's InSight lander stops drilling after hitting a rock block.

NASA's Mars Insight lander has paused drilling operations after hitting a hard material beneath the surface.

Research operations have greatly increased knowledge about the characteristics of the Red Planet. Lately, the Curiosity rover has examined the surface of the planet in an attempt to gather more information. Moreover, the vehicle will send laboratories samples to be investigated in Earth. Nevertheless, digging into Mar's surface may provide new critical data.

The mission of NASA's Mars Insight lander had started favorably as the vehicle safely reached and deployed its deep-digging drill on the Red Planet's surface. The lander is designed to measure thermal conductivity in the ground while a sensor behind is taking the subsurface temperature of the surrounding soil. Initially, it was supposed to dig up the ground for 5 meters.

However, when the 40-centimeter probe, which is part of an instrument called the Heat and Physical Properties Package (HP3), starting digging in the ground, it was quickly forced to stop. The incident occurred on February 28, 2019. A second attempt, 2 days later, was reported to have similar results.

According to scientists, the lander has hit a rocky material and could not penetrate further inside the ground. The instrument, which was provided for InSight by the German Aerospace Center (DLR), was designed to address few rocks or gravels and therefore scientists believe that it has hit a tough material. Since the operations have paused, an investigation to find the optimal solution to tackle the issue has initiated.

Fortunately, it was found that the lander operates effectively and is able to measure thermal conductivity. "The mole is healthy and performed a round of hammering on the weekend (2-3 March, 2019). It has, thus far, continued to work against some resistance without clear evidence for progress. The team has therefore decided to pause the hammering for about two weeks to allow the situation to be analyzed more closely and jointly come up with strategies for overcoming the obstacle," HP3 Principal Investigator Tilman Spohn wrote in a post.


Read 322 times Last modified on Friday, 08 March 2019 16:31

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