HP3 on the surface of Mars to the right of the InSight seismometer, SEIS, the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure device.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The InSight Mars lander has successfully placed the self-penetrating temperature and thermal conductivity probe (HP3) down safely on the surface of Mars!

“The team here is extremely happy to have completed this step after waiting for more than a month for deployment,” reports Tilman Spohn, principal investigator of the device from the German Aerospace Center (DLR) Institute of Planetary Research in Berlin.

InSight Sol 71 image taken by Instrument Deployment Camera (IDC) on February 7, 2019. German Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) is seen at left of robotic arm.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Hammering sequence

“There will be check-outs for the remainder of this and most of next week, but Friday Feb 22nd  we should be commanding the first hammering sequence to be executed on Saturday,” Spohn adds. “This will be Sol 86 on Mars (planning sol 87). We plan to start in the morning local Mars time (around 9am) with a hammering cycle of 4 hours to get to 70 centimeter depth.”

Components of the HP3 heat flow probe. Top left: the radiometer (RAD), which is used to measure the radiation temperature (roughly equivalent to the ground temperature) of the surface. Right: the casing with the mole penetrometer, the temperature measuring cable (TEM-P) and the data cable (ET) connected to the lander. In addition, the casing contains an optical length meter for determining the length of the temperature measuring cable that has been pulled from the casing. The mole contains the TEM-A active thermal conductivity sensor and the STATIL tiltmeter. Bottom left: the electronic control unit, known as the back end electronics (BEE), which remains on the lander and is connected to the probe via the ET.
Credit: DLR.

Tilman Spohn, principal investigator (right) celebrating successful HP3 deployment with colleague.
Credit: Tilman Spohn/DLR

According to Spohn, as they do not know what the resistance of the regolith will be like – they have their guesses – not known is how much progress they will get in 4 hours.

“The data are expected to come down in the early morning of Sunday PST or early afternoon CET,” a happy Spohn reports.

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