NASA engineers are attempting to repair a tool on the Mars InSight probe that was expected to dig five meters (16 feet) into the Martian surface but has ended up plugging at 30 centimeters (one foot). The instrument is called Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3), and it is basically a classy hammer.
The tool has a long rod, dubbed the ‘mole,’ made to dig into the Red Planet’s regolith. The complex system basically uses an engine and spring to burrow away at the soil, sticking the rod in deeper, with a sensor at the edge to calculate the planet’s internal temperature.
The mole was supposed to make its way down through the ground gradually, but it has not been capable to progress much. NASA engineers stopped the tool from burrowing after it landed at the end of February. They are only now talking about the glitching mole.
The possibility that the digging head has hit a big rock is taken into consideration by the boffins. Also, it is possible the soil under the mole is compressing and stopping any other movements.
Mars InSight lander’s ‘mole’ got stuck in Mars’ soil – NASA attempted to unblock it
While trying to save the ‘mole,’ engineers have detached a protective cover enclosing the probe to get a better view of its vicinity. Troy Hudson, a NASA scientist and engineer, said that the team completed the first step in their plan to save the probe.
The engineering team hasn’t eliminated the probability that the ‘mole’ may have come across a rock. They hope to expand a robotic arm with a shovel attached to move the soil surrounding the mole so it can start burrowing again.
Regardless of how useful the robotic arm can be, there is a thing it cannot do. That is to pick up the mole and place it somewhere else. Insight is a rather low-budget probe for NASA, and it doesn’t have as much gear as a mission like the Curiosity rover.
The InSight lander was released into space on May 2018, and arrived on the Red Planet’s surface after about six months, in November. The probe was designed to analyze the planet’s inner structure and its tectonic activity to help NASA eggheads understand how the rocky places in the interior of the solar system took shape.