NASA engineers have still not figured out why the drill of the Mars module InSight stuck

Engineers space Agency NASA is still trying to figure out why the main instrument of the Mars InSight lander is stuck in the course held earlier drilling Martian soil. During the 50th annual Lunar and planetary science conference governing structure of the mission made a presentation about that in the next two weeks the team InSight will try to determine the exact reason why the drill tool Heat and Physical Properties Package (HP3), whose aim is to deepen 3-5 meters under the surface of Mars, is stuck at a depth of about 30 cm.

The drill rig module, known as the “mole”, began the first phase of drilling on the Martian surface on February 28. According to Tillman’s Spon from the German center of Aeronautics and Astronautics, where he developed the drill probe HP3, after 4 hours of activity the drilling module could deepen by about 30 centimeters. However, in the second 5-hour session of drilling conducted on March 2, the mole could not fall below, after which the mission team has decided to suspend further attempts to deepen the probe.

According to Spon, the team responsible for drilling rig, can’t understand what happened really.

“At the depth of 30 cm we somehow collided. Still not sure whether the mole is blocked by a small stone or pebbles, or just stuck. This could easily be due to the fact that he had entered the ground at an angle of 15 degrees,” said Tilman Spon at the conference.

Over the next few weeks NASA scientists and DLR was trying to understand what happened with the drill is jammed, or it is just “marking time” on the spot, faced with a large stone. The answer to this question, as noted at the conference Spon and Bruce Banerdt, head of the mission InSight by NASA yet because of the ambiguity and “stochasticity” of data that has transferred the probe to the Ground.

As has been noted, scientists do not yet know exactly how to construct the ground at the point where the drill was immersed probe. For example, it may consist of a relatively homogeneous and dense matter, and be a collection of lots of large pieces of gravel.

This prevents an unambiguous interpretation of seismic data, it is possible that the drill is stuck, and he was just “hanging out” and jump on one small rock to another. Therefore, the engineers of NASA and DLR can definitely say what happened and how to deal scientist.

To resolve this issue Spon and Banerdt offer a risky option. They are going to address the heads of space agencies with the proposal to include the drill for 10-15 minutes at the end of March and at the same time to monitor its work with the help of a seismometer and cameras InSight. In parallel, it is proposed to conduct a similar experiment with an exact copy of HP3 drill on Earth, the experts of DLR want to bring in the near future in the jet propulsion Laboratory of NASA (JPL). Comparing the results of observations of the setting on Mars and on Earth, scientists hope to understand the root cause of the incident, and to save rig HP3 Martian lander.

To discuss the current state of the mission InSight in our Telegram chat.

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