InSight’s ‘Mole’ is Now Completely buried!

It’s been a long road for InSight’s Mole. InSight landed on Mars almost two years ago, in November 2018. While the lander’s other instruments are working fine and returning scientific data, the Mole has been struggling to hammer its way into the surface of the planet.

After much hard work and a lot of patience, the Mole has finally succeeded in burying itself all the way into the Marian regolith.

But the drama hasn’t concluded yet.

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Testing the Rover That’ll Land on Phobos

Rovers seem to be proliferating all over Mars.  There are currently 4 on the surface, and another (Perseverance) will be arriving in a few months after a successful launch at the end of July.  Mars itself isn’t the only interesting rocky body in the Martian system, however.  Its two moons, Phobos and Deimos, pose a bit of a mystery.  How were they formed? Were they captured asteroids or caused by an impact similar to Earth’s own Moon?

Scientists and engineers are now one step closer to answering those questions with the successful test of a rover that will visit Phobos with JAXA’s Martian Moon Exploration (MMX) mission that will launch in 2024.  The rover, which has yet to be separately named from its parent mission, just underwent some testing that will help to prove it’s worthy to join the pantheon of rovers roaming around the Martian system.

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Although InSight’s Mole is Completely Buried, it Might be Stuck Again

You’ve gotta hand it to NASA, and to the German Aerospace Center (DLR.) They’ve been struggling for over a year to get the InSight Lander’s Mole working. There’ve been setbacks, then progress, then more setbacks, as they try to get the Mole deep enough to do its job.

Now the Mole is finally buried completely in the Martian surface, but it might still be stuck.

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Finally! Mars InSight’s Mole is Now Underground

It looks like the InSight Lander’s Mole instrument is making some progress. After months of perseverance, the team operating the instrument has succeeded in getting the Mole at least some distance into the ground.

That’s a victory in itself, considering all the setbacks there’ve been. But it’s too soon to celebrate: there’s quite a ways to go before the Mole can deliver any science.

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Finally! InSight’s Mole is Making Slow and Steady Progress

Personnel at NASA and the DLR have been working for months to get InSight’s Mole working. They’re at a disadvantage, since the average distance between Earth and Mars is about 225 million km (140 million miles.) They’ve tried a number of things to get the Mole into the ground, and they may finally be making some progress.

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InSight’s Heat Probe Has Bounced Back Out Of Its Hole

This is sad news. After finding what seemed like a solution to the Mole’s difficulties on Mars, engineers are stymied again. The Mole, or Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) has bounced half-way out of its hole.

It’s like Groundhog Day on Mars. If the Mole bounces out of its hole, it means six more weeks of engineers scratching their heads to come up with a solution.

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It Looks Like it’s Working! NASA InSight’s Mole is Making Progress Again Thanks to the Arm Scoop Hack

NASA and the DLR are making some progress with the Mole. The Mole has been stuck for months now, and NASA/DLR have been working to get it unstuck. After removing the mole’s housing to get a better look at it with InSight’s cameras, the team came up with a plan.

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Here’s NASA’s New Plan to Get InSight’s Temperature Probe Into Mars

The mole is still stuck.

The mole is the name given to the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) instrument on NASA’s Mars InSight lander. It’s job is to penetrate into the Martian surface to a depth of 5 meters (16 ft) to measure how heat flows from the planet’s interior to the surface. It’s part of InSight’s mission to understand the interior structure of Mars, and how it formed.

But it’s stuck at about 35 centimers (14 inches.) The mole can do science shy of its maximum depth of 5 meters, but not this shallow. And NASA, and the DLR (German Aerospace Center) who provided the mole, have a new plan to fix it.

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NASA’s Still Trying to Get InSight’s Mole Working Again. Progress is Slow.

The Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package deployed on the Martian surface. Image Credit: NASA/DLR

The InSight lander has been on Mars for 213 Sols on its mission to understand the interior of the red planet. It’s armed with a seismometer, a temperature and wind sensor, and other instruments. But it’s primary instrument, arguably, is the Mole, or the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3.) And the Mole has been stuck for a while now.

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