An artist’s impression of NASA’s Mars Insight lander on the surface of the red planet. An ultra-sensitive seismometer is depicted on the surface at left with a German heat probe at right. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech
The heat probe developed and built by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and deployed on Mars by NASA’s InSight lander has ended its portion of the mission. Since 28 February 2019, the probe, called the “mole,” has been attempting to burrow into the Martian surface to take the planet’s internal temperature, providing details about the interior heat engine that drives the Mars’ evolution and geology.
But the soil’s unexpected tendency to clump deprived the spike-like mole of the friction it needs to hammer itself to a sufficient depth.
After getting the top of the mole about 2 or 3 centimetres under the surface, the team tried one last time to use a scoop on InSight’s robotic arm to scrape soil onto the probe and tamp it down to provide added friction. After the probe conducted 500 additional hammer strokes on 9 January, with no progress, the team called an end to their efforts.
Part of an instrument called the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3), ...