NASA’s Mole :
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on 14th January 2020 officially announced the end of “Mole’s mission” on the Martian surface after its touch down some two years ago in the region called Elysium Planitia.
The Mole was designed to drill a hole into the Martian soil. It was programmed to burrow at least 10 feet (3 meters).
This 16-inch-long (40 cm) heat probe was developed by the German Aerospace Center (DLR). Its main mission was to record Mars’ internal temperatures with its advanced sensors to study Mars’ evolution and geology.
But everything did not go as per the plan. The Mole’s driller got stuck after drilling down merely 14 inches of the Martian soil during its first month of deployment.
The unexpected clumsiness of the Martian soil made ‘Mole’ to lose the friction and deprived it of firmly anchoring itself to a sufficient depth it needed to dig any further.
NASA engineers who were handling the mission tried to set the Mole back using the robotic scoop by scraping the soil onto the probe and hold it firm for additional friction and assist the digger to drill down to 16 feet but the attempt failed.
My robotic mole has had a hard time getting underground, so I’m going to try something we never thought we’d do: giving it a push with my robotic arm while it hammers. This will take several weeks, as the @NASAJPL/@DLR_en team works to #SaveTheMole.
— NASA InSight (@NASAInSight) February 21, 2020
After many failed attempts in February 2020, the engineers tried to push on the probe using InSight lander’s robotic arm, but the attempts yielded no different results.
And on 9th Jan 2021, the final attempt to revive the probe back into its mission was done by trying 500 additional hammer strokes, but no progress was seen, so the team finally decided to call off all their efforts.
Also read: Farming on Mars: Is it Really Possible?
“We’ve given its everything we’ve got, but Mars and our heroic mole remain incompatible. Fortunately, we’ve learned a lot that will benefit future missions that attempt to dig into the subsurface,” said Tilman Spolm of DLR.
InSight is the first mission ever to make an attempt to drill deep into the Martian soil.
According to the researchers, all these attempts to revive the mission will hugely benefit future missions as they have provided precious data and made us learn a lot about the Martian soil.
“We are so proud of our team who worked hard to get InSight mole deeper into the planet,” said Thomas Yarbuchen, associate administrator for science.
“This is why we take risks at NASA – we have to push the limits of technology to learn what works and what doesn’t,” he added.
Also read:Save Earth by Protecting Half the Planet…
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech