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The InSight HP^3 mole on Mars: Lessons learned from attempts to penetrate to depth in the Martian soil

Status Report From: arXiv.org e-Print archive
Posted: Tuesday, December 7, 2021

T. Spohn (1,2), T.L. Hudson (3), L. Witte (4), T. Wippermann (4), L. Wisniewski (5), B. Kediziora (5), C. Vrettos (6), R. D. Lorenz (7), M. Golombek (3), R. Lichtenfeld (8), M. Grott (2), J. Knollenberg (2), C. Krause (9), C. Fantinati (9), S. Nagihara (10), J. Grygorczuk (5) ((1) International Space Science Institute, Bern, Switzerland, (2) DLR-PF, Berlin, Germany, (3) Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena Ca, USA, (4) DLR-RY, Bremen, Germany, (5) Astronika, Warsaw, Poland, (6) University Kaiserslautern, Germany, (7) Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore MD, USA, (8) DLR-SD, Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany, (9) DLR-MUSC, Cologne, Germany, (10) Texas Tech University, Lubbock TX, USA)

The NASA InSight mission payload includes the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package HP^3 to measure the surface heat flow. The package was designed to use a small penetrator - nicknamed the mole - to implement a string of temperature sensors in the soil to a depth of 5m. The mole itself is equipped with sensors to measure a thermal conductivity as it proceeds to depth. The heat flow would be calculated from the product of the temperature gradient and the thermal conductivity. To avoid the perturbation caused by annual surface temperature variations, the measurements would be taken at a depth between 3 m and 5 m. The mole was designed to penetrate cohesionless soil similar to Quartz sand which was expected to provide a good analogue material for Martian sand. The sand would provide friction to the buried mole hull to balance the remaining recoil of the mole hammer mechanism that drives the mole forward. Unfortunately, the mole did not penetrate more than a mole length of 40 cm. The failure to penetrate deeper was largely due to a few tens of centimeter thick cohesive duricrust that failed to provide the required friction. Although a suppressor mass and spring in the hammer mechanism absorbed much of the recoil, the available mass did not allow a system that would have eliminated the recoil. The mole penetrated to 40 cm depth benefiting from friction provided by springs in the support structure from which it was deployed. It was found in addition that the Martian soil provided unexpected levels of penetration resistance that would have motivated to designing a more powerful mole. It is concluded that more mass would have allowed to design a more robust system with little or no recoil, more energy of the mole hammer mechanism and a more massive support structure.

Comments: 34 pages, 15 figures, submitted to Adnaves in Space Research

Subjects: Instrumentation and Methods for Astrophysics (astro-ph.IM); Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP); Geophysics (physics.geo-ph)

Report number: InSight Contribution Number 234

Cite as: arXiv:2112.03234 [astro-ph.IM] (or arXiv:2112.03234v1 [astro-ph.IM] for this version)

Submission history

From: Tilman Spohn 

[v1] Mon, 6 Dec 2021 18:45:16 UTC (8,100 KB)

https://arxiv.org/abs/2112.03234

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