About One Month Until Perseverance Arrives At Mars, And NASA Ends Efforts To “Mine” On Barsoom.

Well, the benefit of all well-designed science efforts, it seems, is that one often learns as much, or more — from experiments that do not work as envisioned, as ones that “succeed” — go as planned.

So it is with the mole, on the floor of Mars’ “ice cream dippin’ dots” surface, where the InSight lander set down. [Having been a miner, of the darkened hard rock depths, of the Rockies, decades ago in my youth — I was very much hoping this particular instrument pack would yield deeper underground science results and readings. But we got… some “dippin’ dots”, instead — oh well, I guess that’s not all bad. Grin….] Where was I? Oh, right… on Barsoom’s surface soil characteristics:

Most of the soil we’ve encountered elsewhere on Mars is more like a very tightly packed, hard frozen solid expanse of Rocky Road ice cream (but with real rocks in it). Thus (it was thought), a small jack-hammer, inside a pointed tubular case, should have been able to bore its way into the subsurface, down about 15 feet — to take temperature and other measurements of quake vibrations.

Not so, at this site. The loose frozen “dippin’ dots” just slide to the side, and then fill back in, where they previously were, once the percussion stops. In sum, the drill-bit cannot get a “bite”, on the surface, or below it for at least two feet of depth. Even trying to tamp it down under that layer with the robotic shovel arm has proved unavailing. So the time has come to focus on all the other parts of InSight that are delivering quake and weather data, perfectly from Barsoom. The mole will be powered down before the Perseverance mission craft drops into orbit overhead, in mid February. Here’s the story from NASA JPL, and a snippet:

…The unexpected properties of the soil near the surface next to InSight will be puzzled over by scientists for years to come. The mole’s design was based on soil seen by previous Mars missions — soil that proved very different from what the mole encountered. For two years, the team worked to adapt the unique and innovative instrument to these new circumstances. . . .

They’ll put their hard-earned wisdom to use in the future. The mission intends to employ the robotic arm in burying the tether that conveys data and power between the lander and InSight’s seismometer, which has recorded more than 480 marsquakes. Burying it will help reduce temperature changes that have created cracking and popping sounds in seismic data….

So, as with all knowledge acquisition, the wise are able to put the learning to good use. It is only the fools among us who will not learn, and adjust — as they seem unable to take what is learned, and better their chances, thereafter. Onward, smiling just the same….


One Response

  1. Hey you — again to the west, at 5:52 pm once, grinning….

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