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NASA's InSight digging into Mars after 7-month setback

Published: 18th October, 2019 at 16:18
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NASA said the mechanical mole has 2 centimetres over the past week.

NASA's InSight Mars lander’s digger is burrowing into the red planet again after hitting a snag 7 months ago.


NASA said the mechanical mole has penetrated just under 2 centimetres over the past week. While just a baby step, scientists are thrilled with the progress.

“We’re rooting for our mole to keep going,” said the experiment’s lead scientist, Tilman Spohn of the German Aerospace Centre.

The German device is meant to penetrate 5 metres into Mars to measure internal temperatures. It barely got a foot down before stalling in March, soon after starting to hammer.

Read more about NASA's InSight lander:

Over the weeks and months, engineers devised a backup plan. To help, the robot arm on the InSight lander is pressing against the drill to create enough friction for it to keep digging.

Since October 8, the mole has hammered 220 times on 3 occasions, making slow but steady progress.

Scientists said it will take time — and lots more hammering — to see how deep it goes.

InSight digging again after 7-month delay © NASA/JPL-Caltech via AP
InSight digging again after 7-month delay © NASA/JPL-Caltech via AP

“When we first encountered this problem, it was crushing,” said the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Troy Hudson, who is leading the recovery effort.

“But I thought, ‘Maybe there’s a chance; let’s keep pressing on.’ And right now, I’m feeling giddy,” he said.

InSight arrived on Mars last November.


Learn more about the InSight mission on the Science Focus Podcast:


Sara RigbyOnline staff writer, BBC Science Focus

Sara is the online staff writer at BBC Science Focus. She has an MPhys in mathematical physics and loves all things space, dinosaurs and dogs.


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