Mars digger bites the dust after two years

17 Janvier, 2021, 09:13 | Auteur: Therese Cote
  • This illustration shows NASA’s In Sight spacecraft with its instruments deployed on the Martian surface. The solar arrays on the left and right sides of In Sight were built by Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems in Goleta and keep the craft powered for

NASA announced on Thursday that a "mole" on Mars has ended its mission after landing on the Red Planet almost two years ago.

After getting the top of the instrument approximately 1 inch under the surface, the team tried one final fix with no progress and called an end to efforts.

Since Feb. 28, 2019, the probe developed and built by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) has been attempting to dig into the Martian surface to take the planet's internal temperature, which scientists hoped would provide details about Mars' evolution and geology. Nicole Mole (mole, in English), the instrument was meant to excavate the red planet, reach depths of up to five meters and measure the internal temperature, contributing with information on the evolution and geology of Mars.

But the probe I encountered problems soon after the knocking process began, When the mole stopped about 30 cm at the surface.

NASA has declared the Mars digger dead after it failed to burrow deep into the red planet to take its temperature.

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Subsequent efforts included moving the device casing over the surface and exposing the mole emerging from the hole. Project researchers determined that the soil at the landing area of InSight had different characteristics from that used by the other landers, which were used to direct the instrument's construction. In that sense, we've been successful: "We've learned a lot that will benefit future missions to Mars and elsewhere, and we thank our German partners from DLR for providing this instrument and for their collaboration", explained Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for science at NASA.

According to NASA, despite not being able to reach the ultimate objectives, the Mole experiment - based on images created from scratch and made from clay generated by previous missions - offers great lessons. "To understand what works as well as what does not, we have to push the boundaries of technology".

The decision to stop spreading the mole came less than a week after the agency announced it was extending the InSight mission until the end of 2022.

InSight's other major seismograph instrument continues to do well, measuring Martian earthquakes.

InSight also has a tool that collects weather data, which will keep running during the extended mission. "Fortunately, we've learned a lot that will benefit future missions that attempt to dig into the subsurface".

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