NASA to Attempt to Push Mars InSight Lander “Mole” into Surface Using Robotic Arm Written 24 February 2020


InSight Lander | NASA/JPL-Caltech

Space News reported that NASA engineers “plan to use the robotic arm on its InSight Mars lander to push a heat flow probe into the surface.” The Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package team has “spent nearly a year trying to get the instrument’s probe, or ‘mole,’ to burrow into the surface.” However, the mole halted its progress roughly 30 centimeters below the surface. Engineers have already “tried a number of ways to get the mole moving again, including removing the instrument housing on the surface to allow the lander’s robotic arm to try and fill in the hole created by the mole, as well as pin the mole to one side of that hole, increasing the friction needed for the mole to work its way into the surface.” In a February 21 statement, NASA JPL “said it will instead use the robotic arm to push on the top, or ‘back cap,’ of the mole in an effort to force the mole into the ground.” NASA “had avoided using that approach before out of concerns it could damage the tether extending from that back cap to the main body of the instrument on the surface.” JPL’s statement indicated that there are “few alternatives left” should this approach fail.
Full Story (Space News)