After another failed attempt earlier this month to dig with the German-made mole on the InSight Mars lander, the science team has decided to abandon all further efforts.
After getting the top of the mole about 2 or 3 centimetres under the surface, the team tried one last time to use a scoop on InSight’s robotic arm to scrape soil onto the probe and tamp it down to provide added friction. After the probe conducted 500 additional hammer strokes on 9 January, with no progress, the team called an end to their efforts.
This means the heat sensor, one of the two instruments carried by InSight, is also a failure, and will not be able to provide any data about the planet’s interior temperature.
From the beginning InSight appears to have been a poorly run and badly chosen project. Other than a weather station, it carried only two instruments, a seismometer and a heat sensor. Its launch was delayed two years when the French attempt to build the seismometer failed and JPL had to take over, fortunately with success. Now the failure of the German-made mole has made the heat sensor a failure.
To send a lander to Mars at a cost of a billion dollars with so little payoff seems in hindsight to have been bad use of money. Plenty of other NASA planetary missions have done far better for far less.
From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.
Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.
The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.
He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.
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