Good News! The New Strategy of Using InSight’s Arm to Push the Mole Seems to be Making Progress. | Universe Today
Categories: InSightMarsNASA

Good News! The New Strategy of Using InSight’s Arm to Push the Mole Seems to be Making Progress.

There’s at least one small bit of good news in these challenging Covid-19 times. And it’s playing out on the surface of Mars. In a brief Tweet, NASA says that using InSight’s robotic arm to push the Mole into the ground is working, somewhat.

As the tweet makes clear, this is no quick fix. They’re going to pursue this method for the next few weeks and see where it gets them. But considering the obstacles that InSight has faced over the months, a few more weeks is hopeful.

The InSight (Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport) lander arrived on Mars at the end of November 2018. Its mission is to understand what’s going on in the interior of Mars, to shed light on how it and other terrestrial planets formed. It’s investigating the interior with a suite of instruments.

One of the lander’s primary instruments is the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3). HP3‘s nickname is ‘the mole’ because it has to penetrate into the Martian soil to do its job. Once it’s deep enough, it’ll measure the heat flowing from the planet’s interior to the surface. Those results will reveal details about the interior of Mars.

Artist’s concept of InSight “taking the pulse of Mars”. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

But the mole has to self-hammer its way into the ground, and that hasn’t been going according to plan. The mole relies on the friction of the soil surrounding it to penetrate, and that hasn’t been happening. The Martian soil at InSight’s landing site is much firmer than expected. Rather than pressing onto the mole as it penetrates, and the necessary friction, the soil is remaining stubbornly compact. NASA’s calling it “duracrust,” and it’s an unusual kind of sub-surface soil.

InSight’s Heat Probe (HP3) popped out of its hole. Hopefully the new strategy will get the Probe into the ground where it belongs. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The InSight team has tried a variety of methods to get the mole into the ground. We’ve covered the trials and tribulations here at Universe Today. So far, this is the only thing that’s worked.

And it’s not clear what else they can try if this doesn’t work.

More:

Evan Gough

Recent Posts

About 3.5 Million Years Ago, a Stream of Gas Outside the Milky Way Would Have Lit Up the Night Sky

It's a truism to point out that modern humans have only been around for the…

1 hour ago

What are the Odds of Life Emerging on Another Planet?

A new study by Prof. Kipping of Columbia University indicates that extraterrestrial life should be…

3 hours ago

Study of 200,000 Galaxies Reveals the Entire Universe Might Have Been Spinning in One Direction Early On

A new study finds evidence that the universe as a whole is rotating, and that…

5 hours ago

Barred Spiral NGC 3895 Captured by Hubble

NGC 3895 is a barred spiral galaxy in the Ursa Major constellation. It's about 145…

5 hours ago

New Simulations Show How Black Holes Grow, Through Mergers and Accretion

One of the most pressing questions in astronomy concerns black holes. We know that massive…

22 hours ago

Want to Mine Ice on the Moon? Scientists Create a Map for Where to Start

The first lunar maps consisted of simply the best images of the Moon from Earth-based…

23 hours ago