InSight scientists give up on heat sensor mole

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.

The Irish not of Celtic origin?

The uncertainty of science: The discovery of a burial site in Ireland has thrown into doubt all theories concerning the Celtic origins of the Irish.

“The DNA evidence based on those bones completely upends the traditional view,” said Barry Cunliffe, an emeritus professor of archaeology at Oxford who has written books on the origins of the people of Ireland. DNA research indicates that the three skeletons found behind McCuaig’s are the ancestors of the modern Irish and they predate the Celts and their purported arrival by 1,000 years or more. The genetic roots of today’s Irish, in other words, existed in Ireland before the Celts arrived.

The article is quite detailed and outlines the overall scientific problem of the Celts, which is now quite unclear about who they were, where they came from, and where they went.

In related news: Scientists have found new evidence of a human presence in Ireland as far back as 12,500 years ago.