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THE WOODLANDS, Texas — Engineers are still trying to understand why one of the main instruments on NASA's InSight Mars lander is stuck just below the Martian surface.
In presentations at the 50th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference here March 18, project officials said they plan to spend the next few weeks determining why the probe on the Heat and Physical Properties Package (HP3) instrument, designed to measure the heat flow in the interior of the planet, is stuck about 30 centimeters below the surface, well short of its desired depth of three to five meters.
Probe - Mole - Surface - Feb - Way
The probe, known as a "mole," started to burrow into the surface Feb. 28, hammering its way into the surface. Tilman Spohn of the German space agency DLR, principal investigator for HP3, said that it appeared to reach a depth of about 30 centimeters after a four-hour hammering session. The probe, though, went no deeper during a second, five-hour hammering session March 2, after which the instrument team decided to hold off on further efforts to burrow into the surface.
Spohn said at the conference that the team speculated that the probe hit a rock shortly after burrowing into the surface that deflected it by about 15 degrees but allowed it to continue. "At about 30 centimeters depth, we encountered something," he said. "We don't know yet if it's a harder layer of regolith or a rock."
Instrument - Team - Problem - Problem - Instrument
The instrument team is working to diagnose the problem, he said, including seeing if the problem is with the instrument itself or the material it is trying to penetrate. One possibility is to use the lander's...
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