NASA Mars InSight lander stops digging as Mole hits rock

Shane McGlaun - Mar 6, 2019, 8:03 am CST
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NASA Mars InSight lander stops digging as Mole hits rock

NASA is operating the InSight rover on the surface of Mars, and so far things have gone smoothly. Insight was able to successfully deploy its probe that was designed to dig 16-feet into the ground to measure the heat coming from inside the planet. The catch is that the probe, known as Mole, only got about 75% out of its housing before it stopped.

NASA says that data indicates the Mole is currently at a 15-degree tilt. The team doesn’t think the probe is damaged or malfunctioning, they believe that the Mole has hit rock or gravel and is unable to continue digging. Scientists had hoped that with the little rock and gravel on the surface of Mars, they would encounter no issues on the dig.

Mole was designed to push small rocks aside and continue digging. NASA says that it did push rocks aside several times, the probe is functioning as expected. It was heated to 50-degrees Fahrenheit, and then the team measures how quickly the heat dissipates in the soil.

That property is known as thermal conductivity, and it helps the sensor to calibrate in a tether that goes back to the lander from Mole. The sensors in the tether can determine the natural heat coming from Mars.

InSight operators plan more heating tests this week to measure the thermal conductivity of the upper surface. NASA continues to measure the surface temperature of the Red Planet using a radiometer on the back deck of the rover.


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