The Insight probe's efforts to drill beneath the Martian surface seem to overcome some stony obstacles.
The US Department of Space's HP3 "Mole" was designed to drill up to 5 meters into the ground and began digging last week
. But the Earth controllers brought the operation to a halt, despite the fact Repeated hammering no progress was achieved.
The analysis shows that the 40 cm long mole mechanism, which will measure the temperature of Mars, has barely escaped from the tube that led to its descent.
The instrument is now inclined from the vertical.
It penetrated into the Martian soil with 4,000 hammer blows over a period of four hours between 1
"On its way down, the mole seems to have hit a rock, tilted it 15 degrees and pushed it aside or passed it," he added. 19659007] "The mole then worked its way up against another rock at an advanced depth until the scheduled four-hour uptime of the first sequence expired."
Prof. Spohn said there would now be a break of two weeks while the situation was assessed.
The Insight probe is located in flat terrain near the equator in a region known as Elysium Planitia.
The site was selected after extensive investigations from orbit, indicating that the soil in the area with few subsoils could be deep obstacles.
But the presence of hidden rocks was always possible and even expected.
Pre-earth mission testing has shown that the mole can handle coarse gravel and, if you have plenty of time to hammer, can even clear larger rocks out of the way. So this interruption is by no means the end of the matter.
"Exploring planets is not as easy as child's play," Prof. Spohn emphasized.
The good news is that HP3 sensors can continue with the first temperature measurements.
The idea of the experiment is to find out how the heat is dissipated from within the planet.
This will provide insight into "how much natural radioactive decay takes place in Mars and how much energy the planet still receives from its formation more than 4.5 billion years ago."
Two other sets of instruments on the probe carry out additional investigations.
A Seismometer The system checks the soil for "Marsquakes" vibrations that could be caused by ongoing geological activity or meteorite attacks. A radio experiment is used to check whether the planet is wobbling around its axis – an indication that it could have a liquid metal core like Earth.