NASA’s InSight Gets Ready To Measure The Temperature of Mars

NASA’s InSight Gets Ready To Measure The Temperature of Mars
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NASA’s InSight rover installed its seismometer recently. Now, the lander deployed a second instrument, the so-called Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3), with which the probe will measure the temperature of Mars. According to NASA, InSight placed the HP3 instrument on the Red Planet on February 12th, at just about three feet away from the seismometer.

HP3 comes with a self-hammering spike and will drill for about 16 feet (5 meters) inside Mars. That would represent the deepest burrow a human-made instrument has ever done on the Red Planet.

“We’re looking forward to breaking some records on Mars. Within a few days, we’ll finally break ground using a part of our instrument we call the mole,” said HP3 Principal Investigator Tilman Spohn of the German Aerospace Center (DLR).

With the seismometer, which would measure any possible seismic activity on the Red Planet, and the HP3 instrument, which would take the temperature of Mars, NASA’s InSight would try to estimate if Mars is geologically active.

NASA’s InSight Gets Ready To Measure The Temperature of Mars

“Our probe is designed to measure heat coming from the inside of Mars. That’s why we want to get it belowground. Temperature changes on the surface, both from the seasons and the day-night cycle, could add ‘noise’ to our data,” also added InSight Deputy Principal Investigator Sue Smrekar of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

NASA spent a long time looking for the perfect landing site for InSight, while the lander also spent several weeks searching for a rock-free area to place its instruments. Otherwise, the drill might encounter a solid rock until reaching 3 meters down, and it would take a full Martian year for the scientists to clear out the noise out of the readings.

“We picked the ideal landing site, with almost no rocks at the surface. That gives us reason to believe there aren’t many large rocks in the subsurface. But we have to wait and see what we’ll encounter underground. That thing weighs less than a pair of shoes, uses less power than a Wi-Fi router and has to dig at least 10 feet [3 meters] on another planet. It took so much work to get a version that could make tens of thousands of hammer strokes without tearing itself apart; some early versions failed before making it to 16 feet [5 meters], but the version we sent to Mars has proven its robustness time and again,” said Troy Hudson from NASA’s JPL.


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