NASA’s Insight probe shovelwork offers hope for Mole’s success

A few weeks after an adventurous maneuver to work on the InSight probe’s Mole tool, NASA has offered an updated plan — it will soon remove its shovel to get a closer look at the instrument,media reported. The space agency has released a new short animation, produced from various still images, showing the soil on Mars as it vibrates from the Mole’s drill hole.

NASA's Insight probe shovelwork offers hope for Mole's success

The Insight rover has a variety of tools designed to investigate the Martian world, including its soil and environment. One of the tools on the rover is the Mole, a drill-hole device that bounces and pushes itself into the dirt. But NASA has found that parts of the Martian surface are very dense, especially the “cement”-like texture.

The Mole instrument was unable to penetrate the hard shell, causing it to just bounce in place, without progress, and eventually bounced back outside the hole. NASA spent a lot of time assessing the problem and came up with a possible solution that ultimately determined an adventure. The space agency used the Insight rover’s robotic arm shovel to gently press the Mole, providing resistance to help it “flush” it out of the dirt.

NASA's Insight probe shovelwork offers hope for Mole's success

Last month, NASA reported that its workaround appeared to be effective, and that the Mole was trying to move farther farther on the surface of Mars. The space agency reported some success in June and video shows debris moving up from the small cave. NASA will remove the shovel sometime in the coming weeks to assess how much of an impact it will have on the Mole.

It’s unclear whether the Mole will eventually be able to penetrate the surface of Mars as NASA has requested to obtain important temperature data. In any case, the lessons learned from this potential failure are helping researchers to increase their understanding of the Red Planet and will help inform future missions.