Meet the Melbourne man to master Mars



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After the probe lands on Mars (everything works well – and sometimes it is not), it uses a robotized arm that uses "moles" to drop up to five feet below the surface and leaves the long tunnel loaded tail to wake up. There it measures Mars's vital signs: it detects how much heat flows from the core of the planet to the surface.

Mark Fittock, 34, left school in 2001 and completed a double degree at Monash University in Astrophysics and Engineering.

Mark Fittock, 34, left school in 2001 and completed a double degree at Monash University in Astrophysics and Engineering.Credit:DLR

This information hopefully creates new insights into the nearest anatomy of the neighbor and even points to the birth of the solar system.

Fittock, 34, left school in 2001 and completed a double degree at Monash University in the astrophysics and engineering industry. It was an unusual but deliberate combination: he wanted to work with space technology.

And seven years ago, he found a "good luck or good opportunity" in DLR, he says, "a mole-development test".

It turned into a 25-layer team as a lead engineer in the surface segment, the "Susanna" -based mole, which uses a mole, keeps it safe, steers its journey, and passes its readings back over Lander over the earth.

"Sorry, but we had to break a lot of new ground," says Fittock.

They had a lot of trouble getting a mole to work reliably in the Mars environment.

"We do not just know what we are going to do," he says. It's not like they could go see it.

"We can make guesses about what we can see in the orbit, but when you move slightly below the surface, we need to make wider and wider guesses.

"We go where nobody has gone before."

Thermal Flow and Physical Characteristics, HP3 short, permeates nearly five meters) on the surface of Mars.

Thermal Flow and Physical Characteristics, HP3 short, permeates nearly five meters) on the surface of Mars.Credit:Mark Fittock

His first challenge in the group was to get the mole to dig deep enough to get good information.

A 1-pound, 30-centimeter mole shakes and shakes in the sand, runs through the sand and the stone and fills it behind.

They built a "very thin long sandbox" to test how it will work.

"A brief summary is, it's really, really hard," Fittock says.

"The excavation lasted longer than expected, and during that time it damaged itself because it would be pained and thrown away. It was a big technical challenge, how can we make it stronger."

They are waiting for Mars's gravity to give them a hand, making the sand smoother than the Earth's equivalent.

But they also expect to hit the stones.

The concept of this artist depicts NASA's InSight descaler after placing his instrument on Mars.

The concept of this artist depicts NASA's InSight descaler after placing his instrument on Mars.Credit:NASA

"They took us a comfortable landing site where we should be able to dig, and we can avoid stones on the surface," he says.

But there will be a "nail-sharp moment," he says when they first see the surface they've unpacked and can be certain it's something they can break.

Although they could get a mole in the sand, it is likely to be pebbles under the surface. Some people can crush, others can travel around, but some could just block them completely to achieve the desired 5 m depth.

InSight Road in Mars ... if everything goes as planned.

InSight Road in Mars … if everything goes as planned.Credit:NASA / JPL-Caltech

The next burrowing process is slow and careful. Whenever a mole hits the problem, it quits when the team returns home to analyze the situation and strategy.

Another problem, which is entirely from the control of the Fittock Group, is a downturn.

He plans to be outside with dinner with other space technicians.

"I'm going to be there with a phone trying to look professional when I'm nervously nervous about what's going on in the landing, but it's a big spaceship, so I think everyone wants to see it."

Risks are ignored, Fittock says he is confident that he got "good science" from his systems.

"We get a better picture not only of what Mars is doing, but also how Mars was formed, how Mars came from the beginning of the solar system to this day and even a better understanding of our entire solar system.

"Sometimes we underestimate how little we know of all the earth and even things on earth."

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Fittock has since moved to the new Bremen OHB as a project leader for future space exploration

At the moment, he is on a mission called Hera, has worked with NASA with the asteroid pair to go and break the space ship into one of them.

It gives them useful insight into how – if the "Earth-killer" asteroid is perceived in the land – we may be able to push it away from its deadly goal.

"In recent years, we have learned that asteroids and comets are different than we expected, on many backgrounds," says Fittock.

"We want to know what's going to happen when this effect takes place."

Nick Miller is a European correspondent Sydney Morning Herald and Age

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