Exploring Mars has just become even more interesting now. Finally, NASA has succeeded in digging in the ‘mole’ inside the Red Planet’s surface, using the InSight lander. The mole here refers to the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package, aboard the lander to help better understand the geology and internal structure of Mars.
It should be noted that the NASA InSight lander landed on Mars back in 2018 with three key tools to explore the planet. One among them is the mole, which has been having difficulty for more than a year now to deploy. After a series of challenges, it has reached a new milestone now. NASA has updated the success story via its official Twitter handle, noting that after several assists from the robotic arm, the mole appears to be underground.
What Is NASA InSight Lander’s Mole?
To understand why this is an achievement, we need to first see what the mole is all about. It consists of a drillbit-like assembly full of heat sensors that are attached to the main body of the lander by a taillike tether. It is designed to hammer up to five meters into the Martian surface, where the mole’s temperature sensors will study the rock it digs through. It gives researchers an idea about how energy moves out of Mar’s core.
After several assists from my robotic arm, the mole appears to be underground. It’s been a real challenge troubleshooting from millions of miles away. We still need to see if the mole can dig on its own. More from our @DLR_en partners: https://t.co/7YjJIF6Asx #SaveTheMole pic.twitter.com/qHtaypoxPp
— NASA InSight (@NASAInSight) June 3, 2020
The equipment is very new; despite many testings on Earth, the circumstances were quite different once on the Red Planet. The result was that as soon as the mole began digging, it would get stuck or back out of the surface. Since then, the Mars InSight team at NASA has been trying out various methods; and now, one method seems to have clicked!
How Did NASA Overcome Challenges With Mole?
The NASA team used a technique using an arm on the InSight lander to gently push the end of the mole as it dug to keep the probe from bouncing out. This was quite a challenge in itself, as the team had to be extra careful not to damage the tether connecting the mole to the lander. The result has been that the mole is entirely buried in the Martian soil.
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