Why NASA’s InSight Mission Can’t Scratch Mars’ Surface


It’s been a year since NASA’s InSight Lander landed on Mars, but one of its major instruments is having trouble cracking the Martian surface. So what’s going on?
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One year into its 2-year mission, a heat probe attached to a self-burrowing mechanical mole on NASA’s InSight spacecraft is not where it is supposed to be.

The probe, designed to go as deep as 5 meters down into the soil on Mars, has barely scratched the surface, getting stuck only about 0.3 meters down before recently popping back out, leaving scientists troubleshooting on how to get the probe deeper into the Martian soil.

The engineers who designed the instrument at the German Aerospace Center had planned a sort of whack-a-mole approach when it came to burying the thermometer, but the soil ended up providing too little friction to keep the digger in place.

And so, after trying a few other approaches (like pinning the mole against the side of its burrow with the lander’s arm), the team is back to the drawing board.

Find out more about how the NASA InSight mission is going overall, and how engineers plan to tackle this Martian mole hiccup on the Red Planet on this episode of Elements.

#NASA #Mars #InSight #Seeker #Elements #Science

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