JPL’s MarCO Wins the ‘Oscar’ for Tiny Spacecraft

Mars as seen from the MarCO-B satellite. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA/JPL-Caltech PR) — The first briefcase-size CubeSats to journey to another planet have been honored for their role in NASA InSight’s successful Mars landing. The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) bestowed their Small Satellite Mission of the Year award to Mars Cube One, or MarCO, Aug. 8, 2019, at the annual Small Satellite Conference in Logan, Utah.

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NASA’s InSight Uncovers the ‘Mole’

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA/JPL-Caltech PR) — 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.

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InSight’s Team Tries New Strategy to Help the ‘Mole’

Engineers in a Mars-like test area at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory try possible strategies to aid the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) on NASA’s InSight lander, using engineering models of the lander, robotic arm and instrument. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA-JPL/Caltech PR) — Scientists and engineers have a new plan for getting NASA InSight’s heat probe, also known as the “mole,” digging again on Mars. Part of an instrument called the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3), the mole is a self-hammering spike designed to dig as much as 16 feet (5 meters) below the surface and record temperature.

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Common Questions about InSight’s ‘Mole’

Signs of the Heat Probe Shifting on Mars: The support structure of the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) instrument moved slightly during hammering, as indicated by the circular “footprints” around the instrument’s footpads. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — There’s a new plan to get InSight’s “mole” moving again. The following Q&As with two members of the team answer some of the most common questions about the burrowing device, part of a science instrument called the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3).

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Mars InSight Lander’s ‘Mole’ Pauses Digging

NASA’s InSight lander set its heat probe, called the Heat and Physical Properties Package (HP3), on the Martian surface on Feb. 12, 2019. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/DLR)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA/JPL-Caltech PR) — NASA’s Mars InSight lander has a probe designed to dig up to 16 feet (5 meters) below the surface and measure heat coming from inside the planet. After beginning to hammer itself into the soil on Thursday, Feb. 28, the 16-inch-long (40-centimeter-long) probe — part of an instrument called the Heat and Physical Properties Package, or HP3 — got about three-fourths of the way out of its housing structure before stopping. No significant progress was seen after a second bout of hammering on Saturday, March 2. Data suggests the probe, known as a “mole,” is at a 15-degree tilt.

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NASA InSight Lander Deploys DLR ‘Mole’ on Surface of Mars

DLR Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP³) on the surface of Mars. (Credit: NASA)

  • HP³ experiment is now in a stable position approximately 1.5 metres away from the lander
  • Heat flow from the interior of Mars will be investigated
  • Operational planning for the DLR instrument is currently underway

COLOGNE (DLR PR) — It stands vertically on flat ground, ready for its historic mission. At 19:18 CET on 12 February 2019, the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP³) or ‘Mole’ was deployed on the Martian surface using the NASA InSight mission’s robotic arm. In the coming weeks, the remote controlled penetrometer is expected to make space history by becoming the first probe to reach a depth of up to five metres in the Martian subsurface. Its goal is to measure the temperature and thermal conductivity of the subsurface and thus determine the heat flow from the interior of Mars. The heat flow gives researchers indications about the thermal activity of the Red Planet. This can provide insights into the evolution of the Martian interior, whether it still has a hot liquid core, and what makes Earth so special in comparison.

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InSight Is the Newest Mars Weather Service

The white east- and west-facing booms — called Temperature and Wind for InSight, or TWINS — on the deck of NASA’s InSight lander belong to its suite of weather sensors. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA/JPL-Caltech PR) — No matter how cold your winter has been, it’s probably not as chilly as Mars. Check for yourself: Starting today, the public can get a daily weather report from NASA’s InSight lander.

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NASA’s InSight Prepares to Take Mars’ Temperature

NASA’s InSight lander set its heat probe, called the Heat and Physical Properties Package (HP3), on the Martian surface on Feb. 12. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/DLR)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA/JPL-Caltech PR) — NASA’s InSight lander has placed its second instrument on the Martian surface. New images confirm that the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package, or HP3, was successfully deployed on Feb. 12 about 3 feet (1 meter) from InSight’s seismometer, which the lander recently covered with a protective shield. HP3measures heat moving through Mars’ subsurface and can help scientists figure out how much energy it takes to build a rocky world.

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Beyond Mars, the Mini MarCO Spacecraft Fall Silent

Mars as seen from the MarCO-B satellite. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA/JPL-Caltech PR) — Before the pair of briefcase-sized spacecraft known collectively as MarCO launched last year, their success was measured by survival: If they were able to operate in deep space at all, they would be pushing the limits of experimental technology.

Now well past Mars, the daring twins seem to have reached their limit. It’s been over a month since engineers have heard from MarCO, which followed NASA’s InSight to the Red Planet. At this time, the mission team considers it unlikely they’ll be heard from again.

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InSight’s Seismometer Now Has a Cozy Shelter on Mars

NASA’s InSight lander deployed its Wind and Thermal Shield on Feb. 2 (Sol 66). The shield covers InSight’s seismometer, which was set down onto the Martian surface on Dec. 19. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA/JPL_Caltech PR) — For the past several weeks, NASA’s InSight lander has been making adjustments to the seismometer it set on the Martian surface on Dec. 19. Now it’s reached another milestone by placing a domed shield over the seismometer to help the instrument collect accurate data. The seismometer will give scientists their first look at the deep interior of the Red Planet, helping them understand how it and other rocky planets are formed.

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InSight Engineers Have Made a Martian Rock Garden

Engineers practice deploying InSight’s instruments in a lab at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. Several of them are wearing sunglasses to block the bright yellow lights in the test space, which mimic sunlight as it appears on Mars. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/IPGP)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA/JPL-Caltech PR) — NASA’s InSight lander is due to set its first science instrument on Mars in the coming days But engineers here on Earth already saw it happen — last week.

Like NASA’s Curiosity rover, InSight has a full-scale working model at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. This sister lander, aptly named ForeSight, lets the team test all operations before they happen on Mars.

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Mars InSight Lander Seen in First Images from Space

NASA’s InSight spacecraft, its heat shield and its parachute were imaged on Dec. 6 and 11 by the HiRISE camera onboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — On Nov. 26, NASA’s InSight mission knew the spacecraft touched down within an 81-mile-long (130-kilometer-long) landing ellipse on Mars. Now, the team has pinpointed InSight’s exact location using images from HiRISE, a powerful camera onboard another NASA spacecraft, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO).

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