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Odp: [SpaceNews] NASA prepares for InSight Mars landing
« Odpowiedź #15 dnia: Luty 07, 2019, 09:26 »
InSight lander completes seismometer deployment on Mars
February 4, 2019 Stephen Clark [Spaceflight Now]

NASA’s InSight lander has placed a protective enclosure over a French-developed seismometer designed to detect tremors on Mars, completing the deployment of the first of two science instruments delivered to the Red Planet in November.

Using its nearly 8-foot-long (2.4-meter) robotic arm, InSight followed commands beamed up from Earth to cover the seismometer package with a dome-shaped wind and thermal shield Saturday.

The milestone follows weeks of leveling and cable adjustments since InSight’s robot arm picked up the seismometer itself from the lander’s deck and placed it on a rock-free portion of the Martian surface that was within reach of the stationary lander.

The shield will ensure winds and temperature swings do not affect the sensors inside the seismometer instrument. Without the added protection, winds could add “noise” to the instrument’s measurements, making it harder to discern when it registers a quake on Mars, scientists said.

Ringed with a thermal barrier and chain mail around the bottom, the wind and thermal shield will also moderate temperatures inside the instrument. Scientists were concerned warming and cooling trends might expand and contract metal springs and other parts inside the instrument, according to NASA.

“Temperature is one of our biggest bugaboos,” said Bruce Banerdt of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, principal investigator for the InSight mission. “Think of the shield as putting a cozy over your food on a table. It keeps SEIS from warming up too much during the day or cooling off too much at night. In general, we want to keep the temperature as steady as possible.”

Diagram of InSight’s seismometer package. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Temperatures measured by InSight since its Nov. 26 landing on Mars fluctuate by about 170 degrees Fahrenheit, or 94 degrees Celsius, over the course of a Martian day, or sol, NASA said in a statement.

InSight braked to a rocket-assisted landing at Elysium Planitia, a broad equatorial plain.

The seismometer instrument was provided by the French space agency, CNES, and its development was led by the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris. JPL built the wind and thermal shield, and leads the overall InSight mission.

The seismometer package was designed with several layers of insulation against temperature changes on Mars. When some parts inside expand and contract, others are designed to do so in the opposite direction to counteract the effects of the changes, according to NASA. The seismic sensors themselves are encased within a vacuum-sealed titanium sphere, which is then overlaid with a hexagonal copper container with honeycomb cells that trap air and keep it from moving.

“Mars provides an excellent gas for this insulation: Its thin atmosphere is primarily composed of carbon dioxide, which at low pressure is especially slow to conduct heat,” NASA said in a statement.

The instrument contains three sets of seismic sensors at its core, which was placed on the surface Dec. 19.

Scientists will also monitor weather conditions, including winds and temperatures, with a meteorological station carried aboard inSight. The weather information can be applied to seismic measurements to filter out data that might have been corrupted by environmental conditions.

A camera on the elbow of InSight’s robotic arm captured 11 images stitched together to create this self-portrait in December. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Next up for InSight will be the deployment of the mission’s other main instrument: the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package, or HP3.

HP3 was developed by DLR, the German space agency, and is scheduled to be transferred from InSight’s instrument deck to the Martian surface with the robot arm next week.

The heat probe consists of a mechanized mole that will dig into the Martian crust to a depth of up to 16 feet, or 5 meters, deeper than any previous Mars mission has reached.

The mole is expected to take around six weeks to reach that depth with roughly 10,000 individual mechanical hammer blows, accounting for several planned pauses to allow the instrument to record thermal conductivity measurements.

The underground probe will measure the heat coming from Mars’s interior, providing information for scientists to study the planet’s internal structure.

Combining the heat probe and the seismic results — which will also tell scientists about layers inside Mars — Banerdt’s team seeks to examine how the rocky planets formed in the ancient solar system, providing a comparison for what geologists already know about Earth.

The procedures to place the instruments on the Martian surface represent a first in the exploration of Mars. While previous NASA missions have used rovers to drive around the Red Planet, none before InSight have physically placed payloads into permanent positions directly on the surface.

The seismometer and heat probe will transmit their readings back to InSight through umbilical cables. The lander will then beam the data back to Earth through communications relay orbiters flying overhead.

“I liken it to … playing that “Claw” game at a carnival, but you’re doing it with a really, really valuable prize, and you’re doing it blindfolded, where you can only take occasional pictures, and then you’re doing it via remote control on another planet,” said Elizabeth Barrett, InSight instrument operations lead at JPL, describing the carefully-choreographed procedure to move the instruments to the Martian surface.

“It takes a little bit longer,” she said. “You need take more pauses to make sure you actually have the grapple of the payload before you lift it up, and it’s actually on the ground before you let it go.”

Engineers created a mock-up of the lander, the instruments and the surrounding environment in a lab at JPL to simulate the instrument deployment procedures before executing them on Mars.

“Sensitive is really an understatement,” Banerdt said of the seismometer. “It’s an exquisitely sensitive device for measuring the motion of the ground. And when we talk about motion, we’re talking about vibrations that have an amplitude comparable to the size of an atom.

“These are waves that were generated, maybe, by a marsquake on the other side of the planet, have traveled all the way through the planet, getting their waveform modified as they go through the planet and picking up information about the deep interior structure, and then we are able to pick it up when it comes back up to the surface under the seismometer,” Banerdt said before InSight’s launch last May.

The seismic sensors aboard InSight evolved from mission concepts in the 1990s and 2000s that would have dispatched multiple small probes to Mars, creating a global geophysical network. InSight will give scientists just one seismic station, but experts have developed techniques to glean information about the interior of Mars, even with a single seismometer.

Researchers have attempted seismic detections on Mars before, but seismometers on NASA’s Viking landers in the 1970s provided inconclusive results. The instruments were mounted the decks of the landers, making them susceptible from interference from spacecraft vibrations and winds.

That’s where the wind and thermal enclosure deployed Saturday comes in.

“Not only do you have to have a very sensitive device for measuring those motions but you have to protect it from everything else that might affect it,” Banerdt said. “We have several different layers of protection, it’s sort of like a Russian doll.”

Once the instruments are deployed and operational, the InSight science mission is planned to last one Martian year, or roughly two Earth years.


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Odp: [SpaceNews] NASA prepares for InSight Mars landing
« Odpowiedź #16 dnia: Luty 07, 2019, 09:27 »
Mars cubesats fall silent
by Jeff Foust — February 6, 2019 [SpaceNews]

NASA's MarCO-B cubesat took this image of Mars from a distance of 6,000 kilometers as it flew past the planet Nov. 26 shortly after the InSight spacecraft landed. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

FREMONT, Calif. — The twin cubesats that played a key role in NASA’s most recent Mars lander mission have been out of contact with the Earth for more than a month, suggesting their trailblazing mission has come to an end.

In a Feb. 5 statement, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said that it not heard from either of the Mars Cube One, or MarCO, cubesats since the beginning of the year. One, nicknamed WALL-E, last contacted Earth Dec. 29, while the other, Eve, has been silent since Jan. 4.

The MarCO spacecraft were 6U cubesats launched in May 2018 as secondary payloads on the Atlas 5 that sent the InSight mission to Mars. As InSight landed on Mars, the MarCO cubesats flew by the planet, serving as communications relays to allow controllers to get real-time telemetry from InSight as it landed.

The spacecraft carried out that prime mission as intended, receiving UHF signals from InSight as it landed and rebroadcasting it back to Earth at X-band frequencies. “MarCO was there to relay information back from InSight in real time, and we did that extraordinarily well,” said Andy Klesh, MarCO chief engineer, at a press conference at JPL immediately after the successful InSight landing Nov. 26.

Klesh said then that the project was discussing with NASA potential extended missions involving the MarCO cubesats as they flew away from the planet into interplanetary space, such as collecting engineering data on the performance of the cubesats and “seeing what other great science and lessons we can pull from those craft.”

JPL spokesman Andrew Good said Feb. 5 that after the flyby the MarCO cubesats continued to transmit technical data about the performance of their various subsystems, including attitude control, propulsion and communications. “The team was looking at a variety of tests related to performance, including seeing just how long the cubesats were able to survive, which was always a key objective for the mission,” he said.

In its statement, JPL said that there were several possible explanations for why the two spacecraft were no longer in contact with the Earth, including problems with sensors used to keep the spacecraft pointed at the sun or problems with their attitude control systems. One of the cubesats, WALL-E, had a leaking thruster.

JPL hasn’t ruled out restoring contact with the MarCO cubesats, which are still receding from the sun in their heliocentric orbits but will start to move closer again this summer. JPL said the project will at that point try to restore contact with the cubesats, but acknowledges that “it’s anyone’s guess” if the spacecraft will still be functional then.

The success of MarCO provided proof that cubesat-class spacecraft could perform useful missions in deep space. NASA has, in recent years, shown a growing interest in using cubesats for a wide range of science missions, initially in Earth orbit but also potentially elsewhere in the solar system.

“We’ve put a stake in the ground,” Klesh said in the JPL statement. “Future cubesats might go even farther.”


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Odp: [SpaceNews] NASA prepares for InSight Mars landing
« Odpowiedź #17 dnia: Marzec 21, 2019, 08:32 »
Engineers still studying problem with InSight heat flow probe
by Jeff Foust — March 19, 2019 [SpaceNews]

The probe on the Heat and Physical Properties Package instrument, seen here deployed on the right, is stuck about 30 centimeters below the surface, far short of its desired depth of three to five meters. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

THE WOODLANDS, Texas — Engineers are still trying to understand why one of the main instruments on NASA’s InSight Mars lander is stuck just below the Martian surface.

In presentations at the 50th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference here March 18, project officials said they plan to spend the next few weeks determining why the probe on the Heat and Physical Properties Package (HP3) instrument, designed to measure the heat flow in the interior of the planet, is stuck about 30 centimeters below the surface, well short of its desired depth of three to five meters.

The probe, known as a “mole”, started to burrow into the surface Feb. 28, hammering its way into the surface. Tilman Spohn of the German space agency DLR, principal investigator for HP3, said that it appeared to reach a depth of about 30 centimeters after a four-hour hammering session. The probe, though, went no deeper during a second, five-hour hammering session March 2, after which the instrument team decided to hold off on further efforts to burrow into the surface.

Spohn said at the conference that the team speculated that the probe hit a rock shortly after burrowing into the surface that deflected it by about 15 degrees but allowed it to continue. “At about 30 centimeters depth we encountered something,” he said. “We don’t know yet if it’s a harder layer of regolith or a rock.”

The instrument team is working to diagnose the problem, he said, including seeing if the problem is with the instrument itself or the material it is trying to penetrate. One possibility is to use the lander’s robotic arm to pick up the support structure on the surface to see if the mole is sticking out, but Spohn said any such plan would need to be “carefully considered” first.

If the problem is with the Martian subsurface, he said, “I think what we can do is just continue hammering and see if we get through that layer or not.”

Bruce Banerdt, principal investigator for the overall mission, said that the spacecraft is taking images of the instrument on the surface to help diagnose the problem. “We can probably start trying to penetrate again in a few weeks,” he said. “Before that, we want to make sure we’re doing the right things.”

The other main instrument on InSight, a seismometer called the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure, is working well. The instrument is now in place on the Martian surface and covered with a wind and thermal shield. Banerdt noted that the instrument’s noise level is about a factor of 100 below the best seismometers on Earth.

The only problem with the seismometer is that it has yet to detect a Marsquake, a lack of activity he said is not surprising. “This is exactly where we expected to be,” he said. The instrument has been fully operational for about a month, he said, and before the mission he expected to detect 10 to 12 quakes per Earth year.

Philippe Lognonné, principal investigator for the instrument, said in a separate presentation that the seismometer was working well. “Now, of course, we are waiting for a quake.”


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Odp: [SpaceNews] NASA prepares for InSight Mars landing
« Odpowiedź #18 dnia: Maj 19, 2019, 19:07 »
Troubleshooting of Mars InSight instrument continues
by Jeff Foust — May 15, 2019 [SN]

Engineers are continuing to study why the mole of the InSight Mars lander's heat flow probe, shown here on the surface on the right, remains stuck about 30 centimeters below the surface. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

WASHINGTON — Engineers are continuing to work to free an instrument on NASA’s InSight Mars lander that remains stuck just below the surface.

The Heat Flow and Physical Properties Probe (HP3), one of the two main instruments on the spacecraft, features a probe, or “mole,” designed to hammer its way into the surface to a depth of about five meters. Once in place, it will measure how much heat is flowing out of the planet’s interior.

The instrument, placed on the surface weeks after the spacecraft’s landing last November, started the hammering process in late February, but project scientists stopped that work days later when it appeared the mole was stuck about 30 centimeters below the surface. Engineers have since been trying to determine why the mole is stuck and how to get it moving again.

The instrument team identified three potential causes for the mole becoming stuck. The mole may have hit a rock that blocks its progress. The tether trailing behind the mole could be stuck in the instrument’s support structure. Another possibility is that the mole’s hull doesn’t have enough friction with the surrounding regolith to keep it from rebounding when fires its hammer.

That third explanation now appears to be the most likely one. “We’ve already moved one rock away,” noted Pascale Ehrenfreund, chair of the executive board of the German space agency DLR, during a panel discussion about the mission May 14 at the Humans to Mars Summit here. DLR developed the instrument for the InSight mission.

She said it also appeared unlikely that the tether was tangled within the instrument. “It looks like that it’s actually the hull friction that is limited.”

Tilman Spohn, the principal investigator for the instrument, wrote in a May 6 blog post that data collected by InSight’s other main instrument, a seismometer, showed that the mole’s response to the hammering was between that of one bouncing freely and one progressing normally into the surface.

He wrote previously that a lack of friction could be caused by a “duricrust” of regolith at the surface that has a higher cohesion than layers beneath. “If the mole is sitting in the duricrust, its hull may very well have lost friction and upon time, the mole may have widened the hole in the duricust,” he wrote.

Ehrenfreund said the instrument performed some “diagnostic hammering” in the last few days, but that the results of that latest effort was still being analyzed.

She remained optimistic that the mole would be able to get to its desired depth. “All the tests have shown that HP3 is really healthy and operative. We just have to optimize to hammer further down,” she said.

InSight’s seismometer has been free of technical issues, but has encountered a different problem: a lack of seismic activity. “It turns out that Mars indeed is, so far, extremely quiet,” said Robert Fogel, InSight program scientist at NASA Headquarters, on the same panel.

The instrument has detected six seismic events to date, he said, including one “just the other day.” One of them is a likely Marsquake, but a weak one: an estimated magnitude of 2.5 about 150 kilometers from the landing site.

A notable aspect of that quake, he said, is that the train of waves lasted 12 minutes, far longer than any terrestrial earthquake but similar to quakes detected by seismometers on the moon placed there by the Apollo missions. That can be explained if the Martian crust is very shattered, scattering waves and elongating the wave train, he explained. It also suggests that the crust is very dry, since water would “heal” shattered minerals.

Fogel said that despite the limited number of quakes, they still hope to detect stronger events, with magnitudes greater than four. “It’s what we need in order for us to help determine exactly how Mars is stratified: core, mantle and crust,” he said.


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Odp: [SpaceNews] NASA prepares for InSight Mars landing
« Odpowiedź #18 dnia: Maj 19, 2019, 19:07 »

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Odp: [SpaceNews] NASA prepares for InSight Mars landing
« Odpowiedź #19 dnia: Luty 22, 2020, 19:53 »
InSight to try to push mole into Martian surface
by Jeff Foust — February 21, 2020 [SN]

Enigneers have moved InSight's robotic arm into position to push down on the mole in the latest effort to get the probe burrowing into the surface again. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

WASHINGTON — Engineers plan to use the robotic arm on its InSight Mars lander to push a heat flow probe into the surface, acknowledging that they have “few alternatives” if that effort fails.

The Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package instrument team has spent nearly a year trying to get the instrument’s probe, or “mole,” to burrow into the surface. The mole has an internal hammering mechanism that is designed to drive the probe as deep as five meters into the surface in order to measure the heat flow from the planet’s interior.

The mole, though, stopped only about 30 centimeters below the surface. The mission has tried a number of ways to get the mole moving again, including removing the instrument housing on the surface to allow the lander’s robotic arm to try and fill in the hole created by the mole, as well as pin the mole to one side of that hole, increasing the friction needed for the mole to work its way into the surface.

In October, that use of the arm to pin the mole worked briefly, allowing the mole to burrow into the surface, only for it to rebound partially out of the hole. A second attempt led to the mole again rebounding partially out of the hole in January.

In a Feb. 21 statement, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said it will instead use the robotic arm to push on the top, or “back cap,” of the mole in an effort to force the mole into the ground. Engineers had avoided using that approach before out of concerns it could damage the tether extending from that back cap to the main body of the instrument on the surface.

“After the team’s experience of operating the scoop, we all became more confident that the risk of accidental damage to the tether (with its power and data lines) was small enough to be worth taking,” Tilman Spohn, principal investigator for the instrument at the German space agency DLR, wrote in a Feb. 21 blog post.

Scientists believe that InSight landed in a region with a thick “duricrust” of regolith not seen elsewhere on the surface. The mole was designed to use friction from looser regolith to move into the surface, and the duricrust may be causing the mole to rebound when it hammers.

This latest effort to get the mole into the surface will take place in late February and early March. Engineers may also use the robotic arm to put more regolith into the hole around the mole.

It’s not clear what the next steps would be if this attempt to push against the mole’s back cap fails. The JPL statement noted that engineers decided on this approach because there were “few alternatives left” to try to the get the mole into the surface.


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Odp: [SpaceNews] NASA prepares for InSight Mars landing
« Odpowiedź #20 dnia: Luty 27, 2020, 00:07 »
NASA’s InSight mission shows Mars is a seismically active world
February 26, 2020 Stephen Clark [SFN]

In this artist’s concept of NASA’s InSight lander on Mars, layers of the planet’s subsurface can be seen below and dust devils can be seen in the background. Credit: IPGP/Nicolas Sarter

While one of its two science instruments remains sidelined, NASA’s InSight probe has proven Mars is seismically active through the detection of hundreds of quakes, some of which can be traced to a volcanic region nearly 1,000 miles away.

Since landing on Mars in November 2018, the InSight spacecraft’s French-built seismometer has detected more than 450 seismic signals to date, according to NASA. Scientists believe the “vast majority” of the signals are probably from quakes, but some could be generated by wind.

But none of the quakes registered by InSight have been stronger than magnitude 4.0, too weak to penetrate Mars’ mantle and core and reveal insights about the red planet’s deep interior.

Data from the first year of results from NASA’s InSight mission were published in six papers Monday. Scientists released the papers in in the scientific journals Nature and Nature Geoscience.

InSight is the first mission to detect a “marsquake” on the red planet. The spacecraft landed on a broad equatorial plain in a region known as Elysium Planitia.

“The detections thus far are consistent with tectonic origins, with no impact-induced seismicity yet observed, and indicate a seismically active planet,” the InSight science team wrote in Nature.

The first batch of seismic measurements suggest Mars is “moderately active” with far more quakes than detected on the moon, scientists wrote in Nature. Mars lacks the tectonic plates responsible for the strongest seismic tremors on Earth, but evidence of volcanic activity on Mars in the recent geologic past could provide clues to one origin of the quakes registered by InSight.

“Mars trembles more often – but also more mildly – than expected,” NASA said.

Scientists traced the origin of two of the quakes to a region named Cerberus Fossae roughly 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) to the east of the InSight landing site. Images acquired by cameras orbiting Mars show faults and channels in the Cerberus Fossae region, evidence of lava flows and running water. Some of the volcanic flows at Cerberus Fossae occurred in the last 10 million years, scientists concluded due to the lack of fresh impact craters in the region.

Landslides at Cerberus Fossae appear to indicate boulders may have been shaken loose by marsquakes, presumably tremors triggered by volcanic activity.

“It’s just about the youngest tectonic feature on the planet,” said Matt Golombek, a planetary geologist at JPL. “The fact that we’re seeing evidence of shaking in this region isn’t a surprise, but it’s very cool.”

The two largest quakes detected by NASA’s InSight appear to have originated in a region of Mars called Cerberus Fossae. Scientists previously spotted signs of tectonic activity here, including landslides. This image was taken by the HiRISE camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaisance Orbiter. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

Scientists believe InSight may landed on Mars during a relatively quiet period of seismic activity because it took several months for the probe to detect its first confirmed seismic signal. By the end of 2019, the mission’s seismic instrument — named SEIS — was detecting around two seismic events per day.

Meanwhile, InSight’s other science instrument — an underground heat probe — continues having trouble hammering into the Martian soil.

The German-built Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package, or HP3, instrument was supposed to burrow up to 16 feet (5 meters) into the Martian crust, deeper than any sensor from previous Mars missions.

The HP3 instrument’s self-hammering mole got stuck on the first day it began digging into the Martian soil. The soil at InSight’s landing site appears to clump together rather than loosely fall around the mole as it hammers.

Inspections using InSight’s robot arm camera indicated the presence of 2 to 4 inches (5 to 10 centimeters) of duricrust, a type of cemented soil thicker than anything encountered on other Mars missions, NASA officials said. The duricrust is also different from the soil the mole was designed for.

The unique soil properties have caused the mole to bounce in place as it recoils from each stroke of its built in hammer mechanism, rather than dig deeper as designed.

Last summer, ground controllers began using the scoop on the InSight lander’s robotic arm to push against the side of the 16-inch-long (40-centimeter) spike as it resumed hammering into the ground. The pinning method appeared to help, but the mole backed out of the ground two times.

Now mission managers have elected to try a more risky method to push on the back cap of the mole with the robotic arm as the spike hammers into the ground.

Ground teams will take it slow with the new pushing method to avoid damaging an umbilical that trails behind the mole. The tether contains multiple temperature sensors to gather thermal data at various depths underneath the Martian surface, and cables to route science data back to the InSight lander for transmission to Earth.

The robotic arm on NASA’s InSight spacecraft is seen in position to assist the mole of the mission’s underground heat probe in this Feb. 24 image. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The heat flow measurements intended to be collected by the HP3 instrument are part of the $1 billion InSight mission’s so-called “Level 1” requirements, but were listed as a stretch goal, not as a requirement for minimum mission success, according to Bruce Banerdt, the mission’s principal investigator at JPL.

“NASA funds our mission and supports us, and in return, we sort of promise a certain number of scientific measurements and results,” Banerdt said last year. “We have about 10 of those for InSight. We call them our Level 1 requirements, and one of those Level 1 requirements is for a measurement of the heat flow of Mars using our HP3.

The mission must meet at least six of the 10 Level 1 requirements to meet minimum success criteria, according to NASA officials.

The InSight mission’s third major science investigation is the Rotation and Interior Structure Experiment, or RISE. This experiment uses radio signals traveling between InSight and Earth receiving stations to track the wobble of Mars as it rotates, yielding insights into the planet’s interior structure, including whether Mars has a liquid or solid core.

Scientists have not yet made any conclusions from the RISE investigation.

“A solid core would cause Mars to wobble less than a liquid one would,” NASA said. “This first year of data is just a start. Watching over a full Martian year (two Earth years) will give scientists a much better idea of the size and speed of the planet’s wobble.”

Other data collected by InSight last year suggest rocks beneath the probe’s landing site are more magnetized than scientists predicted. The magnetic signals are relics left over from when Mars had a magnetic field billions of years ago.

The Martian magnetic field withered away, but rocks buried 200 feet (61 meters) to several miles beneath the planet’s surface were magnetized by the field. Rocks closer to the surface are too young to carry the remnant magnetism.

InSight carried the first magnetometer to the surface of Mars to investigate how the magnetic field’s ancient impacts can still be sensed today. The initial InSight results indicate the magnetism coming from the deep rock layers is 10 times stronger than expected.

“This magnetism must be coming from ancient rocks underground,” said Catherine Johnson, a planetary scientist at the University of British Columbia and the Planetary Science Institute. “We’re combining these data with what we know from seismology and geology to understand the magnetized layers below InSight. How strong or deep would they have to be for us to detect this field?”

Weather sensors on InSight have detected thousands of whirlwinds passing over the lander in its first year on Mars. The mission’s flat landing site has more whirlwinds than other place on Mars with weather instruments, but InSight’s cameras have not spotted any dust devils, which occur when the spinning winds pick up grit and become visible, according to NASA.


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Odp: [SpaceNews] NASA prepares for InSight Mars landing
« Odpowiedź #21 dnia: Maj 11, 2020, 14:11 »
InSight mole making slow progress into Martian surface
by Jeff Foust — May 5, 2020 [SN]

Recent images from NASA's InSight Mars lander show the lander's robotic arm, with a scoop at the end, pushing down on top of the mole as it attempts to burrow into the surface. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

WASHINGTON — An instrument on NASA’s InSight Mars lander that has struggled for more than a year to make its way into the Martian surface is now making steady, but slow progress with the help of the lander’s robotic arm.

The Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package instrument on the InSight lander was to deploy a probe, or “mole,” into the surface of the planet, using a hammering mechanism to burrow as deep as five meters below the surface to measure the heat flow from the planet’s interior. The probe, though, got stuck shortly after it started burrowing in February 2019, getting no deeper than about 30 centimeters.

The project has tried several ways to get the mole moving into the surface again. Most recently, spacecraft controllers positioned the scoop on the end of the lander’s robotic arm on top of the mole, pushing down on it to help it move into the surface and to prevent it from moving back out, which has happened in the past.

That approach is working so far. “The mole is going down by its hammering mechanism, but it is aided by the push of the scoop that balances the force of the recoil,” said Tilman Spohn, principal investigator for the instrument at the German space agency DLR, during a May 4 webinar about results from the mission that was part of the European Geosciences Union General Assembly, a conference that moved online because of the coronavirus pandemic.

However, the progress is slow because of the need to reposition the arm as the mole gets deeper. “That is a very tedious operation,” he said. “We can only go like 1.5 centimeters at a time before we have to readjust.”

Another issue is the angle at which the mole is penetrating into the surface. The mole was originally designed to go down vertically, but is now at an angle of nearly 30 degrees from the vertical. “It’s not something we like to see,” he said. If the mole is able to get completely below the surface, he expects that it will “rectify itself to some extent.”

The problems have given scientists some insight into the properties of the surface at InSight’s landing site. There is a “duricrust” about 20 centimeters thick, which he described as sand that has been cemented into place by salt. That duricrust didn’t provide enough friction to keep the mole from recoiling as it tried to hammer into the surface initially.

Another issue, he said, is that there is now a region of compacted sand created by the mole as it hammered in place without moving deeper. That will make it more difficult for the mole to penetrate into the surface, even with the assistance of the robotic arm.

While Spohn didn’t state how long the current effort to get the mole into the Martian surface would last, other project officials have suggested it may take a couple months. The latest effort had just started when Bruce Banerdt, principal investigator for the overall mission, gave a briefing at a meeting of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group April 17, noting that the lander’s other instruments, including its seismometer, were working well.

“We anticipate that we’ll have the mole down flush with the ground within another month or two months,” he said. By then, the arm will no longer be able to help push the mole further into the ground. “At that point, it’s either going to be able to go on its own or not.”


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Odp: [SpaceNews] NASA prepares for InSight Mars landing
« Odpowiedź #22 dnia: Maj 11, 2020, 14:13 »
Stopniowe postępy na trudnym etapie misji Mars InSight
8 maja 2020, 13:56 [S24]

Fot. NASA/JPL-Caltech []

Wystrzelona niemal dokładnie 2 lata temu misja badawcza lądownika NASA InSight na Czerwoną Planetę wciąż zmaga się z kłopotliwym penetrowaniem marsjańskiego gruntu. Zapoczątkowana w lutym 2019 roku operacja szybko okazała się trudniejsza do przeprowadzenia niż pierwotnie zakładano - zadecydowała o tym niespoistość przebijanych warstw regolitu, uniemożliwiająca prawidłowe działanie w niej urządzenia HP3 (zwanego również Kretem - do którego powstania przyczynili się polscy inżynierowie). Na początku bieżącego miesiąca zasygnalizowano jednak, że przyjęta prowizoryczna metoda dociskania głowicy penetratora mechanicznym ramieniem lądownika przynosi póki co zamierzony efekt.


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Odp: [SpaceNews] NASA ceases efforts to deploy Mars InSight heat flow probe
« Odpowiedź #23 dnia: Styczeń 17, 2021, 03:51 »
NASA ceases efforts to deploy Mars InSight heat flow probe
by Jeff Foust — January 15, 2021

The InSight mission team used the lander's robotic arm to help push the heat flow probe, or "mole," into the surface, but the mole was not able to burrow deeper. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

WASHINGTON — After nearly two years of struggles, NASA has abandoned efforts to deploy a heat flow probe on its InSight lander into the surface of Mars.

In a Jan. 14 statement, NASA said that a final effort to hammer the “mole” into the surface of Mars Jan. 9 failed to make any progress. The mole performed 500 hammer strokes, trying to drive itself into the surface, but remained in place just two to three centimeters below the surface.

“We’ve given it everything we’ve got, but Mars and our heroic mole remain incompatible,” said Tilman Spohn of the German space agency DLR, the principal investigator of what is formally known as the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3), in a NASA statement.

HP3 was designed to burrow up to five meters deep into the surface, collecting data on the heat flow from the Martian interior. The lander placed the instrument package on the surface in early 2019, shortly after InSight landed on Mars in November 2018.

The probe, though, ran into problems soon after the hammering process began, when the mole stopped about 30 centimeters into the surface. Scientists first speculated that the probe had run into a rock or harder subsurface layer.

The instrument team later determined that the problem was with a lack of friction between the probe and the surrounding regolith, which caused the mole to rebound as it hammered, holding it in place. At times the mole appeared to partially back out of the hole.

Later efforts involved moving the instrument’s housing on the surface, revealing the mole sticking out of the hole. Spacecraft controllers used the scoop on the end of the lander’s robotic arm to press down on the mole to keep it from rebounding, tamp down regolith around the hole, and also to fill in the widening hole so the mole could gain more friction.

While those efforts were successful in getting the mole completely beneath the surface, and covered by a few centimeters of regolith, additional hammering efforts failed to make any progress, leading to the decision to leave the mole where it is. Project scientists concluded the soil at InSight’s landing site had different properties than that seen by other landers, which was used to guide the design the instrument.

“We are so proud of our team who worked hard to get InSight’s mole deeper into the planet. It was amazing to see them troubleshoot from millions of miles away,” Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA associate administrator for science, said in the statement. “This is why we take risks at NASA — we have to push the limits of technology to learn what works and what doesn’t.”

The decision to stop deploying the mole came less than a week after the agency announced it was extending InSight’s mission through the end of 2022. At the time NASA said that extended mission “may continue deployment (at low priority)” of the mole, but didn’t discuss how long those efforts would continue.

InSight’s other main instrument, a seismometer, continues to work well, measuring Martian quakes. “InSight’s extended mission will focus on producing a long-duration, high quality seismic dataset,” NASA said in its Jan. 8 announcement of the extended mission. With efforts to deploy the mole now over, the spacecraft will use its robotic arm to partially bury the cable between the seismometer and the lander, reducing thermal noise in its data.

InSight also has an instrument that collects weather data, which will continue to operate during the extended mission.

Despite the mole’s failure to burrow into the surface, NASA said it still provided useful engineering data that can be used for future missions that need to drill into the surface. While no such missions are in development now, NASA anticipates future missions, both robotic and human, using drills to probe beneath the surface, including to access subsurface ice deposits.

“Fortunately, we’ve learned a lot that will benefit future missions that attempt to dig into the subsurface,” Spohn said.


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Odp: Artykuły o InSight, MarCO
« Odpowiedź #24 dnia: Czerwiec 29, 2021, 00:56 »
Declining power supply could end NASA’s InSight Mars mission next year
June 27, 2021 Stephen Clark [SFN]

One of InSight’s solar arrays, on the left, is covered in dust in this picture taken in May. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Without a fortuitous whirlwind to clear dust off its solar panels, NASA’s InSight lander could end its mission on Mars within a year due to dropping power levels, the project’s chief scientist said last week.

“We have a two-year extended mission which should take us to the end of calendar year 2022 if we can stay alive that long on Mars,” said Bruce Banerdt, InSight’s principal investigator.


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Odp: Artykuły o InSight, MarCO
« Odpowiedź #24 dnia: Czerwiec 29, 2021, 00:56 »