The Mole probe of NASA’s InSight lander has been having problems for the past few months,media BGR reported. The Mole probe was designed to go deep beneath the surface of Mars and transmit temperature data back, but it has been unable to capture the soft soil. The inSight team’s new efforts have led to promising developments that may allow the Mole to achieve its goals.
NASA’s Mars InSight lander has done some great work on Mars. It has been working as the planet’s first “weather station” to detect earthquakes on Mars and provide scientists with a lot of data on what’s beneath the surface of Mars. Unfortunately, one of its most promising tools — the self-hammered Mole, which aims to dig up Martian soil and provide deep data — falls far short of expectations.
Now, after months of experimentation, NASA is trying to get the Mole to finish its work, and crews on Earth think they may have found a solution.
The Mole probe is designed to drill into the martian surface, and in order to do so, it relies on friction with the Martian soil to secure its position because it hammers itself deeper. Shortly after InSight landed on the Red Planet, it was found that the soil was too loose and dusty to allow the Mole to dig. Over the next few months, NASA experimented with different techniques to push the Mole deep into the Martian surface, hoping to give it a chance to go deep. The lander used a robotic arm to push the soil around the Mole in the hope of giving it more traction, but that didn’t work. The lander then physically pushed the Mole into the hole, but the attempt was unsuccessful.
Now, the team decided to try a new technique that would fill the hole with new soil so that the Mole had something to catch. They scraped the hole with a spoon from the lander. As scientists explain in detail on the DLR website, the lander’s efforts seem to have paid off, at least in the short term. Recent images of the Mole show that it is completely covered in sand and may now have a better chance of hammering itself deep below the surface.
In the end, the mole had to reach a depth of a few feet, and any data on it would be valuable. The probe is designed to collect temperature data beneath the surface of Mars, but it is worthless if it doesn’t really dig itself to the depth it needs. It is still uncertain whether these latest efforts really “saved” the Mole so that it can continue to dig.