Science 2 min read

NASA's InSight Lander Mole Gets Into Trouble Again

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Fabiobispo3D /

NASA‘s InSight lander mole has suffered another setback on Mars.

Back in February, the InSight lander mole, a device that’s designed to burrow deep beneath the surface of Mars, got stuck moments after its deployment. The mole stopped working after reaching 3cm depth, rather than the 5 meters that the mission required.

At the time, the team tried patting the ground in an attempt to unstick the mole. However, applying pressure to the mole using InSight’s arm scoop seems to have done the trick.

The Insight lander mole was burrowing again.

In a tweet, the German Aerospace Center (DLR), who designed the heat probe said:

Good news from Mars! After 3 cm progress, it appears the ‘Mole’ on NASA InSight was not stopped in its tracks by a rock under the Martian surface but had, in fact, lost friction.

Weeks after the statement, the Insight team tweeted a GIF showing the mole popping back up out of the Mars soil where it had initially buried itself.

What went wrong this time?

Why NASA’s InSight Lander Mole Stopped Burrowing

Well, according to NASA InSight, the unexpected soil properties on the red planet may be responsible for the device’s bizarre behavior.

Mars continues to surprise us,” the team tweeted. “While digging this weekend, the mole backed about halfway out of the ground. Preliminary assessment points to unexpected soil properties as the main reason.

The associate administrator at NASA, Thomas Zurbuchen, also stated that engineers were analyzing the data to understand what went wrong.

Then in a follow-up tweet, the InSight Team said:

“One possibility observed in testing on Earth is that soil could fall in front of the mole’s tip as it rebounds, gradually filling the hole in front of it as the mole backs out.”

Insight is on a mission to analyze Mars so that it can understand how the rocky planet, including Earth, was formed.

Since its November 2018 landing, the lander had performed like a champ. Along with picking up on marsquakes, listening to the wind, the mission even won an Emmy.

While the InSight lander mole may have suffered several setbacks, the mission is still a success.

Read More: NASA Gives Personality to InSight to Boost Engagement

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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