Scientists at NASA discovered that InSight Lander’s mole which is dug inside Mars has backed out half-way of its hole. The initial assessments point towards unusual soil conditions on the planet.
NASA’s InSight Lander for Mars is designed as a several-purpose mission. Among its many objectives, one of them is to comprehend the nature of the soil on the planet.
InSight spacecraft uses its robotic arm to help its heat probe, known as “the mole,” dig beneath the soil. InSight has nearly 2 centimeters (3/4 of an inch) digging done over the past week. Though the progress may seem very less but is very significant. The Mole is designed to dig as much as 16 feet (5 meters) underground to calculate the heat escaping from the planet’s interior.
A scoop on the end of the arm is used to “pin” the mole against the wall of its hole thus providing the friction it requires to continue digging. The mole started hammering in February 2019. Since Oct. 8, 2019, the mole has hammered 220 times over three separate occasions.
Unusual Soil Conditions on Mars
The digging into the surface of Mars was going well for several weeks. However, InSight’s mole has now backed about halfway out of its hole since last week. The initial assessments by NASA highlight “unusual soil conditions” on Mars.
The international mission team is working on the next steps to get it buried again. The team continues to look at the given data and will formulate a plan in the coming days. According to NASA, the most immediate course of action is to determine the safety levels to move InSight’s robotic arm away from the mole to better assess the situation.
If there are no other options then they would consider pressing the scoop down directly on the top of the mole while trying to avoid the sensitive tether there. The tether provides power to the mole and relays data from the instrument.