NASA declares the Mars InSight digger dead after two years

James Marshall
January 17, 2021

In early 2019, soon after InSight arrived on Mars in November 2018, the lander positioned the instrument kit on the surface.

The discovery was the first of its kind, proposing to excavate the surface of the red planet.

The final attempt took place on Saturday (9), when the mission team used a one-of-a-kind shell on the Insight Robotic Arm to scrape the soil on the probe and restrict it to provide more friction.

Although these attempts were successful at bringing the mole entirely below the surface and surrounded by a few centimeters of the regolith, there was little improvement made in further hammering efforts, contributing to the decision to keep the mole where it is.

HP3 was built to dig down into the soil up to 5 meters depth, gathering data from the Martian interior mostly on heat flow.

"We had everything, but Mars and our heroic mole are incompatible", said DLR's Tilman Spawn. Spoon said working on this probe would benefit future missions, as they learned a lot about the surface of Mars.

"We are so proud of our team, who worked hard to get InSight's mole deeper into the planet". "This is why we are taking the risk at NASA - we have to push the boundaries of technology to see what works and what doesn't", he said. Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA's Associate Director of Science, said in the statement, "It was unbelievable to see them discover problems from millions of miles away".

"In this sense, we have succeeded: we have learned a lot that will benefit future missions to Mars and elsewhere", Zurbuchen continued, "and we thank our German partners at DLR for providing this tool and for their cooperation".

At the time, NASA said that the extended mission "may continue to spread (with low priority)" from Mole, but it has not been discussed how long it will last.

"The mole is a device with no heritage".

Scientists in Germany spent two years trying to get their heat probe, dubbed the mole, to drill into the Martian crust. "Having had the opportunity to take this all the way to the end is the greatest reward".

The lander recently was granted a two-year extension for scientific work, now lasting until the end of 2022.

InSight's seismometer has collected data about so-called marquakes, and the extended mission will focus on producing a long-duration, high-quality seismic dataset, NASA officials said. The hope was to better understand how the planet's interior heat engine drives Mars' evolution and geology.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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