NASA has ceased its efforts to measure heat fluxes from the heart of the planet Mars through the Insight probe's mole. It turns out that this equipment is not compatible with the soil of the region where it is located.
After spending several months doing everything possible to drive the Insight probe's mole below the surface of Mars, NASA has finally decided to abandon the program. In a statement released last week, the US space agency revealed that despite the 500 hammer blows it received, the mole failed to squeeze into the soil of the Red Planet. “We gave him everything we have, but Mars and our heroic mole remain incompatible,” said Tilman Spohn of German space agency DLR.
Faced with these unsuccessful efforts, the scientists therefore made the decision to drop the equipment which, let us remember, is called HP3 (Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package).
A harder floor than expected
HP3 was designed to dig up to five meters deep into the surface of Mars, its intended role being to collect data on heat fluxes beneath the planet's surface. The lander brought the instruments to the surface in early 2019, shortly after InSight landed on Mars in November 2018.
Unfortunately, a problem arose. Despite the rigorous hammering process undertaken by the engineers, the mole only buried itself a few inches. NASA initially thought the probe had collided with a harder rock or subterranean layer before later realizing that InSight's landing site had different properties than the data revealed. used for the design of the instrument.
The other instruments continue to operate
It should be noted that this decision to abandon the mole came less than a week after the announcement of the extension of the InSight mission until the end of 2022. Unlike the HP3, the other instrument of the probe, the SEIS seismometer, continues to work fine. Note that InSight is also equipped with an instrument for collecting meteorological data.