Space Science Reviews

, Volume 211, Issue 1–4, pp 239–258 | Cite as

Experimental Investigation of InSight HP3 Mole Interaction with Martian Regolith Simulant

Quasi-Static and Dynamic Penetration Testing
  • Jason P. Marshall
  • Troy L. Hudson
  • José E. Andrade


The InSight mission launches in 2018 to characterize several geophysical quantities on Mars, including the heat flow from the planetary interior. This quantity will be calculated by utilizing measurements of the thermal conductivity and the thermal gradient down to 5 meters below the Martian surface. One of the components of InSight is the Mole, which hammers into the Martian regolith to facilitate these thermal property measurements. In this paper, we experimentally investigated the effect of the Mole’s penetrating action on regolith compaction and mechanical properties. Quasi-static and dynamic experiments were run with a 2D model of the 3D cylindrical mole. Force resistance data was captured with load cells. Deformation information was captured in images and analyzed using Digitial Image Correlation (DIC). Additionally, we used existing approximations of Martian regolith thermal conductivity to estimate the change in the surrounding granular material’s thermal conductivity due to the Mole’s penetration. We found that the Mole has the potential to cause a high degree of densification, especially if the initial granular material is relatively loose. The effect on the thermal conductivity from this densification was found to be relatively small in first-order calculations though more complete thermal models incorporating this densification should be a subject of further investigation. The results obtained provide an initial estimate of the Mole’s impact on Martian regolith thermal properties.


Penetrator Regolith DIC Dynamic Quasi-static Thermal conductivity 



The authors would like to gratefully acknowledge the many helpful comments from Matthias Grott at the German aerospace center DLR (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt) and an anonymous reviewer that greatly improved the manuscript. Part of the research was carried out at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jason P. Marshall
    • 1
  • Troy L. Hudson
    • 2
  • José E. Andrade
    • 1
  1. 1.Mechanical and Civil Engineering DepartmentCalifornia Institute of TechnologyPasadenaUSA
  2. 2.Jet Propulsion LaboratoryCalifornia Institute of TechnologyPasadenaUSA

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