NASA Mars InSight lander stops digging as Mole hits rock

Rodiano Bonacci
Marzo 8, 2019

The space administration's lander probe, which is created to dig as far as five metres below the surface and measure heat coming from inside the planet, hit a snag after encountering what scientists suspect is a "rock or some gravel".

Nasa said the Heat and Physical Properties Package - or HP3 - had got about three-quarters of the way out of its housing structure before stopping, and had made no progress after a second attempt to dig on 2 March.

NASA says that data indicates the Mole is now at a 15-degree tilt.

NASA's InSight lander set its heat probe, called the Heat and Physical Properties Package (HP3), on the Martian surface on February 12, 2019.

Despite being created to push rocks aside or "wend its way around them", NASA instrument lead Tilman Spohn said it had "continued to work against some resistance without clear evidence for progress".

Even so, the mole was created to push small rocks aside or wend its way around them.

"The mole is healthy and performed a round of hammering on the weekend", said Tilman Spohn, instrument lead from the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) which provided the instrument.

"The team has chose to stop the hammering for the time being to allow the situation to be examined all the more intently and jointly concoct strategies for overcoming the obstacle", HP3 Principal Investigator Tilman Spohn of DLR, the German Aerospace Center which provided NASA with the instrument, wrote in a blog post.

The good news is the probe's heat measuring functions appear to be working normally.

Once the mole is deep enough, these tether sensors can measure Mars' natural heat coming from inside the planet, which is generated by radioactive materials decaying and energy left over from Mars' formation.

"In the meantime, we are planning on carrying out thermal conductivity measurements for the first time on Mars".

The little lander had been going great guns since its landing, using its robotic arm to put a seismometer on the Mars surface in December, and after that protecting that seismometer with a cover from winds and temperature fluctuations.

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