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.
The mole is moving again@NASAInSight’s robotic arm seems to have helped its heat probe burrow almost two centimeters so far. More on the Mars lander here: https://t.co/RiV1h2DebH pic.twitter.com/p7D1p8sQj4
— NASA JPL (@NASAJPL) October 17, 2019
“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:
- InSight: what NASA’s mission to Mars could find inside the Red Planet
- More InSight selfies from the surface of Mars, please…
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.
“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: