This gentleman is Troy Lee Hudson, engineering manager of the HP3 experiment, laid down on the Martian surface by NASA’s Insight mission. Made by the German space agency DLR, HP3 is a kind of planetary thermometer, with a probe designed to self-sink into the Martian sand up to 5 meters, but something went wrong early on.

Using a full-size model of HP3, Hudson explains how initially the so-called mole sank well into the ground for a few tens of centimeters, then tilted, stopping making progress in its excavation, with about ten centimeters of probe still inside the container cylinder.

Perhaps the mole encountered a large stone, but NASA technicians are more inclined to believe that the problem lies in the composition of the soil, which does not offer sufficient friction for the mole to sink.

So it was decided to attempt a risky but, at this point, necessary operation to save this part of the mission. First of all it is necessary to have a clear view of the probe, moving the container with the robotic arm with which Insight is equipped.

An operation to be carried out in small steps, taking care not to extract the mole from the ground, otherwise you would not be able to reinsert it. Once a better picture of the situation has been obtained, the general idea is to use the small shovel on top of the robotic arm to compact the soil around the probe, hoping that this will provide the necessary friction to resume digging.

It is the first time that such an operation is attempted, which, of course, can not be done in real time, given the distance that separates us from Mars, but the technicians will have to pre-program carefully all the commands and wait for feedback from the probe.

Service by Stefano Parisini, Media Inaf
Video and text credits: Nasa/Jpl-Caltech

This post has been automatically translated. See the original post here.

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