The NASA InSight lander’s “mole” drill has finally penetrated into Martian soil

NASA’s InSight lander conducted a quite successful operation on Mars, investigating “earthquakes” on Mars and listening to strange sounds on the red planet. However, there is a problem: the lander’s “mole” heat probe mission on Mars did not go smoothly.


The design of this heat detector is to go deep into the soil of Mars and collect the temperature inside Mars, but the detector has been stuck. NASA and the mole team spent more than a year studying possible solutions to the stuck mole, and they may have finally made some progress.

NASA InSight team account posted on Twitter on Wednesday: “After several assists by my robot arm, the mole seems to have entered the ground. Troubleshooting from millions of miles away is really a real challenge.”

the Insight team shared a GIF of the process, which involved pushing the top of the detector with a shovel at the end of the lander’s mechanical arm. The good news shows that the problem of “mole” is not the stone blocking its way, but the composition of Martian soil at Insight’s landing site. The detector cannot obtain enough friction to push down.

The mole team is led by the German Aerospace Center (DLR). You can learn more about the details of its hard work in the log update of Tilman Spohn, head of the “mole” instrument at the German Aerospace Center on Wednesday. This is a study of patience and perseverance.

The next key step is to see if the “mole” can dig independently. DLR calls this process the “free mole” test. If the test continues to encounter obstacles, the team may try to fill the hole with mud or push the detector with the edge of the shovel.

Insight’s mission is to learn more about how rocky planets such as Mars and Earth formed. Heat detectors can provide valuable data for scientists.