NASA InSight’s ‘Mole’ On Mars Doesn’t Work, Again, But Engineers Are On It

NASA InSight’s ‘Mole,’ a scientific tool known as the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package, or simply HP3, isn’t working as it supposed to. The mole must dig on Mars’ surface, but it doesn’t succeed as planned, according to recent reports.

The mole carried NASA’s InSight probe and landed on Mars in 2018. Scientists planned to find out how much heat is still being generated inside the core of the once geologically active Mars. The mole’s mission was to bury itself approximately 16 feet below Mars’s surface so that daily temperature changes won’t damage it.

The mole is only a tube of almost 16 inches long, and it also measures an inch in diameter. The scientific tool even has an edgy tip and an attached hammer that runs like a pile driver to crush the instrument into the ground.

An Issue was Identified

The issues appeared back in February when the digging began, and instead of going further into the ground 16 feet, it got stuck after only 14 inches. NASA’s scientists stated that the issue was related to bouncing. Such a fact means that the mole withdrew lightly every time the hammer intended to push it further into the ground.

Moreover, another cause might be caused by uncertainty about the dimension of the particles of Martian sand. Mars’ low pressure also has an impact on the mole’s mission because it changed the way the dirt acts compared to soil on our planet.

A Solution was Found

Troy Hudson, InSight’s instrument system engineer, examined the issue, and he came with a solution. He said: “We moved the scoop over to a different position nearby, and pushed hard on the soil, hoping that would transfer force to the mole through the soil rather than directly.”

After that, the scientists sent details for the scoop to press, the mole to hammer, and InSight’s camera to record what followed. The results were satisfactory, and the mole had withdrawn approximately half-way out of the hole, inadvertently destroying much of their progress.

Hudson added: “we’re going to have to come up with a new way to get it underground fully, and we haven’t figured out exactly what we’re going to do there yet.”

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