The DRILL of the HP3 instrument of the Martian station InSight almost completely went into the ground. The mission team thus managed to neutralize the effects of a recent accident when the strike probe jumped out of the soil, the mission tweeted.
According to the original plan, the HP3 (The Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package), which arrived on Mars with the InSight automatic station, was to create a five-meter well in the ground. There the installation was also to lower the loop with sensors of thermal conductivity layers of Martian soil. However, drilling operations were suspended in March this year, almost immediately after the start.
My latest round of hammering with the robotic mole has it heading further in the right direction. I’ll take a rest from digging while my team enjoys a holiday break, and meanwhile keep an ear out for more #marsquakes. pic.twitter.com/iYT4cgDccP
— NASA InSight (@NASAInSight) December 23, 2019
It soon became clear that the drill has a small grip on the surrounding soil, because of which the recoil on impacts is not balanced and instead of deepening, it expands the walls of the well. After repeated attempts, the engineers still managed to provide the instrument with the necessary grip to the ground: the drill began to gradually deepen into the soil. However, at the end of October, it suddenly half-jumped out of the ground.
However, the experts were able to re-fix the position of the installation to continue the work: after five series of blows the drill almost completely went into the ground. Now engineers, however, will again have to decide whether to transfer the pressure point of the robotic arm to the drill: the current position for the loop is unsafe.
Despite the fact that the scientific program of the mission was interrupted, the data already allow assessing the properties of regolith at the site of work. It is assumed that the surface area consists of a solid layer (duricrust) about 20 centimetres thick and a loose sandy ground that penetrated the well during the bounces of the shock probe. Work on the installation will resume on January 6, 2020.