NASA has been hoping to use its InSight lander to explore Mars and launch a heat probe beneath the surface of the Red Planet, but has suffered an unfortunate mission,media CNET reported. But when the InSight team announced thursday that the Mole heat detector was moving again, we heard good news.
The InSight lander is equipped with a “hot flow and physical characteristic detector” and is known for its “Mole” nickname. The heat probe is designed to drill 16 feet (5 meters) below the surface of Mars to collect data on the planet’s temperature from inside the planet. But it’s not easy.
NASA had some initial success in moving the Mole, but it quickly stopped and even ejected from the ground midway through the October attempt. NASA and the German Aerospace Center, which designed the heat probe, have been working on a new plan to save the Mole.
The latest developments give the InSight team room for optimism. The InSight lander is using its robotic arm to apply pressure to the Mole side protruding from the ground. The Mole is now down about 1.25 inches (32 mm). It’s not a lot, but it also means progress.
The InSight lander will arrive on Mars by the end of 2018 and has made some impressive achievements, including listening to earthquakes and recording the red planet’s disturbing “sounds.” NASA wants the heat probe to start, but even if the Mole doesn’t succeed, InSight will still be able to provide a lot of data on Mars.