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Raumfahrt - InSight Mars Lander Mission Update-12

2.07.2019

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On June 28, 2019, NASA's InSight lander used its robotic arm to move the support structure for its digging instrument
 
 
On June 28, 2019, NASA's InSight lander used its robotic arm to move the support structure for its digging instrument
 
On June 28, 2019, NASA's InSight lander used its robotic arm to move the support structure for its digging instrument, informally called the "mole." This view was captured by the fisheye Instrument Context Camera under the lander's deck.Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
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Behold the "mole": The heat-sensing spike that NASA's InSight lander deployed on the Martian surface is now visible. Last week, the spacecraft's robotic arm successfully removed the support structure of the mole, which has been unable to dig, and placed it to the side. Getting the structure out of the way gives the mission team a view of the mole - and maybe a way to help it dig.

"We've completed the first step in our plan to save the mole," said Troy Hudson of a scientist and engineer with the InSight mission at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "We're not done yet. But for the moment, the entire team is elated because we're that much closer to getting the mole moving again."

Part of an instrument called the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3), the self-hammering mole is designed to dig down as much as 16 feet (5 meters) and take Mars' temperature. But the mole hasn't been able to dig deeper than about 12 inches (30 centimeters), so on Feb. 28, 2019 the team commanded the instrument to stop hammering so that they could determine a path forward.

Scientists and engineers have been conducting tests to save the mole at JPL, which leads the InSight mission, as well as at the German Aerospace Center (DLR), which provided HP3. Based on DLR testing, the soil may not provide the kind of friction the mole was designed for. Without friction to balance the recoil from the self-hammering motion, the mole would simply bounce in place rather than dig.

One sign of this unexpected soil type is apparent in images taken by a camera on the robotic arm: A small pit has formed around the mole as it's been hammering in place.

"The images coming back from Mars confirm what we've seen in our testing here on Earth," said HP3 Project Scientist Mattias Grott of DLR. "Our calculations were correct: This cohesive soil is compacting into walls as the mole hammers."

The team wants to press on the soil near this pit using a small scoop on the end of the robotic arm. The hope is that this might collapse the pit and provide the necessary friction for the mole to dig.

It's also still possible that the mole has hit a rock. While the mole is designed to push small rocks out of the way or deflect around them, larger ones will prevent the spike's forward progress. That's why the mission carefully selected a landing site that would likely have both fewer rocks in general and smaller ones near the surface.

The robotic arm's grapple isn't designed to lift the mole once it's out of its support structure, so it won't be able to relocate the mole if a rock is blocking it.

The team will be discussing what next steps to take based on careful analysis. Later this month, after releasing the arm's grapple from the support structure, they'll bring a camera in for some detailed images of the mole.

Quelle: NASA

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Update: 31.08.2019

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InSight mission seeking new ways to fix heat flow probe

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WASHINGTON — Members of the InSight mission team are using a break in spacecraft operations to study new ways to get one of the spacecraft’s key instruments to resume burrowing into the Martian surface.

Scientists and engineers involved with InSight’s Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package instrument have been working for the last several months to get the instrument’s probe, or “mole,” to start moving into the surface again. The mole, intended to hammer to a depth of five meters below the surface, stopped in early March only about 30 centimeters below the surface.

In June, the mission decided to use the lander’s robotic arm to remove the support structure for the instrument. That would allow the instrument team to get a better view of the condition of the mole and also take new steps to get the mole moving again. Scientists believed that a lack of friction with the surrounding regolith was preventing the mole from gaining traction as it attempted to hammer deeper into the surface.

Removal of the support structure confirmed that hypothesis. Images showed the top of the mole peeking out above the surface in a hole about twice the diameter of the mole. A twist in the tether linking the mole to the rest of the instrument suggested it had started to spin around, widening the hole, as it tried to hammer deeper into the surface.

The instrument team then used InSight’s robotic arm again, pressing the scoop at the end of arm against the surface around the hole to try and collapse it. In an Aug. 27 blog post, Tilman Spohn, principal investigator for the instrument at the German space agency DLR, said that images taken after those attempts showed that the pit was only, at best, partially collapsed on one side.

Spohn said it appears there is a layer of “duricrust,” or regolith that is mechanically strong, on the surface, covered by about a centimeter of loose dust. Below that duricrust, which he estimated to be five to ten centimeters thick, could be “cohesionless sand” that prevents the mole from penetrating.

InSight is currently on hiatus while it and other spacecraft at Mars are in solar conjunction, with the sun between Mars and the Earth blocking communications. Spohn said that while the break is a time for some to take a vacation, he and others are thinking about new ways to get the mole moving again.

One possibility would be to use the scoop on the robotic arm in a different way. “I am thinking towards pinning the mole with the scoop such that the pinning and the pressing of the mole against the wall of the pit would increase friction,” he wrote. “This will be more risky than the previous strategy, but with the unexpectedly stiff duricrust, it may be worth a try.”

Spohn didn’t state when the mission would try a new approach to get the mole moving again. Andrew Good, a spokesman at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said Aug. 29 that there will be no action immediately after the solar conjunction period ends Sept. 7. It will take about a week after that to get all the data back from InSight and other spacecraft at Mars.

“Even after that, the team is continuing to conduct testing and discuss the next move,” he said, and thus there is no firm date for deciding what to do next with the mole.

Quelle: SN

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Update: 2.10.2019

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NASA lander captures marsquakes, other Martian sounds

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This April 25, 2019 photo made available by NASA shows the InSight lander's dome-covered seismometer, known as SEIS, on Mars. On Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019, scientists released an audio sampling of marsquakes and other sounds recorded by the probe.

NASA's InSight lander on Mars has captured the low rumble of marsquakes and a symphony of other otherworldly sounds.

Scientists released an audio sampling Tuesday. The sounds had to be enhanced for humans to hear.

InSight's seismometer has detected more than 100 events, but only 21 are considered strong marsquake candidates. The rest could be marsquakes — or something else. The French seismometer is so sensitive it can hear the Martian wind as well as movements by the lander's robot arm and other mechanical " dinks and donks " as the team calls them.

"It's been exciting, especially in the beginning, hearing the first vibrations from the lander," said Imperial College London's Constantinos Charalambous, who helped provide the audio recordings. "You're imagining what's really happening on Mars as InSight sits on the open landscape," he added in a statement.

 

InSight arrived at Mars last November and recorded its first seismic rumbling in April.

A German drilling instrument, meanwhile, has been inactive for months. Scientists are trying to salvage the experiment to measure the planet's internal temperature.

The so-called mole is meant to penetrate 16 feet (5 meters) beneath the Martian surface, but has managed barely 1 foot (30 centimeters). Researchers suspect the Martian sand isn't providing the necessary friction for digging, causing the mole to helplessly bounce around rather than burrow deeper, and to form a wide pit around itself.

Quelle: abcNews 

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NASA's InSight used its Instrument Context Camera (ICC) beneath the lander's deck to image these drifting clouds at sunset
Clouds drift over the dome-covered seismometer, known as SEIS, belonging to NASA's InSight lander, on Mars. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
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Put an ear to the ground on Mars and you'll be rewarded with a symphony of sounds. Granted, you'll need superhuman hearing, but NASA's InSight lander comes equipped with a very special "ear."

The spacecraft's exquisitely sensitive seismometer, called the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS), can pick up vibrations as subtle as a breeze. The instrument was provided by the French space agency, Centre National d'Études Spatiales (CNES), and its partners.

SEIS was designed to listen for marsquakes. Scientists want to study how the seismic waves of these quakes move through the planet's interior, revealing the deep inner structure of Mars for the first time.

But after the seismometer was set down by InSight's robotic arm, Mars seemed shy. It didn't produce its first rumbling until this past April, and this first quake turned out to be an odd duck. It had a surprisingly high-frequency seismic signal compared to what the science team has heard since then. Out of more than 100 events detected to date, about 21 are strongly considered to be quakes. The remainder could be quakes as well, but the science team hasn't ruled out other causes.

Quakes

Put on headphones to listen to two of the more representative quakes SEIS has detected. These occurred on May 22, 2019 (the 173rd Martian day, or sol, of the mission) and July 25, 2019 (Sol 235). Far below the human range of hearing, these sonifications from SEIS had to be speeded up and slightly processed to be audible through headphones. Both were recorded by the "very broad band sensors" on SEIS, which are more sensitive at lower frequencies than its short period sensors.

The Sol 173 quake is about a magnitude 3.7; the Sol 235 quake is about a magnitude 3.3.

Each quake is a subtle rumble. The Sol 235 quake becomes particularly bass-heavy toward the end of the event. Both suggest that the Martian crust is like a mix of the Earth's crust and the Moon's. Cracks in Earth's crust seal over time as water fills them with new minerals. This enables sound waves to continue uninterrupted as they pass through old fractures. Drier crusts like the Moon's remain fractured after impacts, scattering sound waves for tens of minutes rather than allowing them to travel in a straight line. Mars, with its cratered surface, is slightly more Moon-like, with seismic waves ringing for a minute or so, whereas quakes on Earth can come and go in seconds.

Mechanical Sounds and Wind Gusts

SEIS has no trouble identifying quiet quakes, but its sensitive ear means scientists have lots of other noises to filter out. Over time, the team has learned to recognize the different sounds. And while some are trickier than others to spot, they all have made InSight's presence on Mars feel more real to those working with the spacecraft.

"It's been exciting, especially in the beginning, hearing the first vibrations from the lander," said Constantinos Charalambous, an InSight science team member at Imperial College London who works with the SP sensors. "You're imagining what's really happening on Mars as InSight sits on the open landscape."

Charalambous and Nobuaki Fuji of Institut de Physique du Globe de Parisprovided the audio samples for this story, including the one below, which is also best heard with headphones and captures the array of sounds they're hearing.

On March 6, 2019, a camera on InSight's robotic arm was scanning the surface in front of the lander. Each movement of the arm produces what to SEIS is a piercing noise.

Wind gusts can also create noise. The team is always on the hunt for quakes, but they've found the twilight hours are one of the best times to do so. During the day, sunlight warms the air and creates more wind interference than at night.

Evening is also when peculiar sounds that the InSight team has nicknamed "dinks and donks" become more prevalent. The team knows they're coming from delicate parts within the seismometer expanding and contracting against one another and thinks heat loss may be the factor, similar to how a car engine "ticks" after it's turned off and begins cooling.

You can hear a number of these dinks and donks in this next set of sounds, recorded just after sundown on July 16, 2019 (Sol 226). Listen carefully and you can also pick out an eerie whistling that the team thinks may be caused by interference in the seismometer's electronics.

What does it sound like to you? A hall full of grandfather clocks? A Martian jazz ensemble? Share your thoughts with us on Twitter.

About InSight

JPL manages InSight for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. InSight is part of NASA's Discovery Program, managed by the agency's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Lockheed Martin Space in Denver built the InSight spacecraft, including its cruise stage and lander, and supports spacecraft operations for the mission.

A number of European partners, including France's Centre National d'Études Spatiales (CNES) and the German Aerospace Center (DLR), are supporting the InSight mission. CNES provided the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) instrument to NASA, with the principal investigator at IPGP (Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris). Significant contributions for SEIS came from IPGP; the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Germany; the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) in Switzerland; Imperial College London and Oxford University in the United Kingdom; and JPL. DLR provided the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) instrument, with significant contributions from the Space Research Center (CBK) of the Polish Academy of Sciences and Astronika in Poland. Spain's Centro de Astrobiología (CAB) supplied the temperature and wind sensors.

Quelle: NASA

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Update: 7.10.2019

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NASA's scheme to resurrect the drill on its Mars probe

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The InSight lander's "self-hammering heat probe" stuck in the Martian soil.

NASA blasted the InSight lander to Mars with the aim of drilling some 16 feet into the Martian ground. 

But the drill, also called the "mole" or "self-hammering heat probe," only burrowed 14 inches into the soil before getting stuck. The space agency hasn't been able to move the heat-detecting probe since February. 

But NASA has a plan. And the people behind that plan appear confident.

"This is a very, very challenging problem," said Ashitey Trebi-Ollennu, the lead arm engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "Sometimes it appears intractable. But we engineers love solving challenging problems."

The strategy is relatively simple in theory, but of profound difficulty to deploy from tens of millions of miles away. 

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NASA engineers plan to use a robotic scoop to scrape red soil into the 14-inch hole and fill it up. Then, they'll plant the flat bottom of the metal scoop into the soil next to mole, thus pinning the drill against the scoop.

This way, the drill won't bounce around as much in the hole. Instead, the drill's hammering motion will be forced down into what NASA believes is highly compact or clumped soil. (Though, it may also be a rock, which could doom this part of InSight's mission.)

"This might increase friction enough to keep it moving forward when mole hammering resumes," Sue Smrekar," the InSight Deputy Principal Investigator, said in a statement. 

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Previously, NASA used the scoop to push on the soil around the hole, hoping to collapse the hole so the drill wouldn't wobble around. But NASA failed to collapse the shallow pit.

Ultimately, the goal is to drill 16 feet into the Martian ground where the probe can measure the heat inside Mars' interior. How geologically active is the planet, and what exactly is going on below the desert surface, are two weighty questions. 

"We're cautiously optimistic that one day we'll get the mole working again," Trebi-Ollennu said.

Quelle: Mashable

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