Nailing It: Caltech Engineers Help Show That InSight Lander Probe Can Hammer Itself Into Martian Soil

Professor José Andrade

Professor José Andrade

Professor José Andrade’s research team including Postdoctoral researchers Ivan Vlahinic and Jason Marshall have helped the InSight Mars lander boldly go where no one has gone before: beneath the surface of Mars. InSight is equipped with two main instrument packages: a seismometer for studying how seismic waves (for example, from marsquakes and meteorite impacts) travel through the planet and a "mole" that will burrow into the ground, dragging a tether with temperature sensors behind it to measure how temperatures change with depth on the planet. These instruments will tell scientists about Mars's interior structure (similar to the way an ultrasound lets doctors "see" inside a human body) and also about the heat flow from the planet's interior. When designing the mole the engineers at JPL wanted to be certain that it would be capable of reaching the necessary depth, and so they called on Professor Andrade, an expert on the physics of granular materials. He was able to develop new computer models that helped the JPL team predict the mole's effectiveness in Martian soil. Unless the mole encounters an obstacle, Andrade is confident that it will be successful. [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights MCE Jose Andrade postdocs Ivan Vlahinic Jason Marshall