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.
The InSight lander is making progress on Mars. After many months of struggle and careful adaptation, the InSight lander’s ‘Mole’ is finally into the ground. There’s still more delicate work to be done, and they’re not at operating depth yet. But after such a long, arduous affair, this feels like a victory.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
When InSight landed on Mars on Nov. 26th, 2018, it deployed a parachute to slow its descent through the thin Martian atmosphere. As it approached the surface, it fired its retro rocket to slow it even more, and then gently touched down on the surface. As it did so, its retro rockets excavated two small pits in the Martian soil.