NASA is attempting to use the scoop on the InSight Mars lander’s robot arm to help pack down soil around a German heat probe, the tube-like device seen above, to help the instrument hammer its way below the martian surface. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech
NASA’s InSight lander, which is on a mission to explore the deep interior of Mars, positioned its robotic arm this past weekend to assist the spacecraft’s self-hammering heat probe. Known as “the mole,” the probe has been unable to dig more than about 14 inches (35 centimetres) since it began burying itself into the ground on Feb. 28, 2019.
The manoeuvre is in preparation for a tactic, to be tried over several weeks, called “pinning.”
“We’re going to try pressing the side of the scoop against the mole, pinning it to the wall of its hole,” said InSight Deputy Principal Investigator Sue Smrekar of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “This might increase friction enough to keep it moving forward when mole hammering resumes.”
Whether the extra pressure on the mole will compensate for the unique soil remains an unknown.
Designed to burrow as much as 16 feet (5 meters) underground to record the amount of heat ...