[U: Sunday Night] InSight — Now Drilling, On Mars!

First, the sobering news: on Saturday, the drill hit some stone or obstacle at around 15 cm deep, and that shifted the “head shaft assembly” — on the surface, by about a centimeter. But the team has resumed drilling, hoping to push past whatever the drill head hit. Worst case, if the head shaft continues to slide sideways — due to reversing torsion forces on the bit (from the drill hammer head striking a very hard rock plate). . . the team may redeploy the rig, on the other side of the lander. But that would be a month of rework, in all likelihood.

SO — we remain hopeful that the drill’s hammer point will fracture the obstacle, and push right through it, today on Mars. We will know by Monday night — in any event. Here’s a bit, from the German team that designed and built the drill — and a clean feed video of progress to date, below that:

. . . .UPDATED, From the DLR Science Blog: What is the feeling in the team? We are a bit worried as we hit one or two obstacles so soon already but tend to be optimistic. That the mole made the first 20 cm in 5 minutes suggests a high penetration rate when unobstructed. Would it have reached even 30 cm in that time, then the penetration rate would have been perhaps unrealistically high. More realistic may be to assume that the mole made the first 20 cm or so rapidly and then penetrated slowly for about 10 cm into some gravel or that it moved an obstacle aside while penetrating 10 cm.

Tests with pebbles in sand suggest that the mole takes some hours but can work itself through a layer of pebbles or move a stone out of the way. Geological evidence suggest that the regolith should be mostly sandy. So hopefully we can get past the obstacle on Sunday and get to 70 cm more easily. But we should not forget, we are moving into the unknown.

Keep your fingers crossed! [End, updated portion.]

How do you get to know someone deep down? Sometimes you have to dig a little bit – or in my case, burrow. My robotic mole has started hammering itself into the ground, to help take the temperature of Mars. . . .

Exploring the interior of Mars – at present, the inner structure of Mars and the nature and size of the Martian core are not yet fully understood. . . The mission will provide new insights into how Mars’ interior and rocky planets like Earth have developed and evolved. . . DLR is supplying key German technology that enables the measurement of physical parameters in remote places. . . .

Onward — with a grin.


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