Mechanism designed by the Polish company Astronika utilized during the NASA InSight mission to Mars

The mechnism for measuring the heat flux from the interior of the planet, commonly called “The Mole”, designed and constructed by Astronika, is one of the three instruments which will be placed on the surface of the Red Planet within the new NASA mission which will be launched on May the 5th, 2018 on 13:00 CET.

The InSight (Interior Exploration Using Seismic Investigation Geodesy and Heat Transport) probe mission is the first space mission aimed at subterrestrial research of Mars. Astronika plays an important part in this mission, providing together with Polish partners the drive system of the HP3 (Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package) instrument – a probe for measuring the heat flux from the interior of the planet. “The Mole” penetrator by means of the specially designed mechanism will be "hammered" to a depth of 5 meters in Martian ground. Its task will be to monitor the changes in the planet’s structure, its temperature and core. The gathered information will serve scientists in their analysis of the Red Planet’s composition and the geological construction.

- It is a great success for Astronika, but also an important event for the whole Polish space industry. For the first time in history a Polish company created an integral system for a space mission. It is also a meaningful step ahead in space research as our mechanism will dig 5 meters under the surface of the Mars – the record depth so far – to provide data which may help to answer numerous questions regarding the structure and composition of this planet. - says Bartosz Kedziora, CEO of Astronika company created by the Polish engineers and scientists, which constructed the mechanism for the commission of The German Aerospace Center (DLR).

As the coordinator of the “The HP3 Mole” project Astronika worked tightly with the Polish subcontractors: Centrum Badań Kosmicznych PAN (The Space Research Centre of The Polish Academy of Science), Instytut Lotnictwa (The Institute of Aviation), Instytut Spawalnictwa (The Institute of Welding), Politechnika Łódzka (Lodz University of Technology) and Politechnika Warszawska (Warsaw University of Technology).

The success of Polish technology and science

The mechanism constructed by Astronika is the latest showcase of the potential of the company and the whole Polish industry. This accomplishment sets an important milestone in the history of the development of the Polish space sector as “The Mole” is the very first complex mechanism prepared in Poland to be applied during the space mission. Beforehand, Polish entities provided single components (screws, springs) or designed processes utilized during missions such as: Cassini-Huygens, Mars Express, Rosetta, Venus Express, Herschel or Phobos-Grunt.

- Design and assemble of a complex mechanism is a first step for the Polish space sector to move up in the chain of supply of the European space industry, which is one of the goals of the National Space Program - says dr Grzegorz Brona, President of the Polish Space Agency. - The example of Astronika clearly illustrates how collaboration with R&D institutes enables Polish companies to change their status from a provider of simple elements to the role of an entity rich in know-how, which can offer products with added value. In the case of Astronika, the product with a signature ”designed and constructed in Poland” will reach The Unites States of America and later on – Mars.

POLSA in close cooperation with entities from the Polish space sector, i.a. Astronika, conducts intensive work on the National Space Program. One of the intentions behind the program is to provide Polish companies and scientific institutes with public support enabling them to implement in the close time perspective next advanced projects for prestigious, international space missions and helping to commercialize these achievements on the market.

The InSight mission

The Mars InSight mission will follow the legacy of NASA's mission Apollo and will place the following instruments on the surface of Mars:

  • SEIS (Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure) - the seismometer measures the vibrations caused by the internal activity of Mars to illuminate the properties of the crust, mantle and core,
  • HP3 - the heat probe HP3 takes Mars' temperature to reveal how much heat is flowing out of the deep interior of the planet,
  • RISE (Rotation and Interior Structure Experiment) - a radio science instrument measures the wobble of Mars' North Pole as the sun pushes and pulls it in its orbit, providing clues on the size and composition of Mars' metallic core.

The goal of the InSight mission is to carry out geophysical research on Mars, which will provide breakthrough information about the internal structure of the planet and its modern geological activity. This mission will allow to better understand the evolution and formation of Mars, as well as Earth-type planets in general.

The mission will last 2 years and the landing on the Red Planet is planned for the November 26th, 2018. The lander will take off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on board the largest interplanetary missile - Atlas V-401, 189 ft (57.3 m) long. The InSight probe will also be the first ever interplanetary mission launched by a rocket from California.

- In some ways, InSight is like a scientific time machine that will bring back information about the earliest stages of Mars' formation 4.5 billion years ago. It will help us to learn how rocky bodies form, including Earth, its moon, and even planets in other solar systems - said JPL's Bruce Banerdt, principal investigator of the NASA mission.

Mechanizm wykonany przez polską firmę Astronika wykorzystany w misji NASA InSight na Marsa
Astronika, materiały własne.
Mechanizm wykonany przez polską firmę Astronika wykorzystany w misji NASA InSight na Marsa
Astronika, materiały własne.

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