NASA’s InSight lander, which is currently on the surface of Mars, has faced some unexpected problems during its mission to explore and study the planet.
After a few failed attempts to get it out, NASA had to get a bit creative. Ultimately, it freed the probe up by giving it a solid thwack with InSight’s shovel.
NASA expected its probe, dubbed “the mole”, to dig its way through sand-like terrain. But because the Martian soil clumped together, the whole apparatus got stuck in place.
A bit of good news from #Mars: our new approach of using the robotic arm to push the mole appears to be working! The teams @NASAJPL/@DLR_en are excited to see the images and plan to continue this approach over the next few weeks. 💪 #SaveTheMole
— NASA InSight (@NASAInSight) March 13, 2020
Programming InSight’s robotic arm to land down on the mole was a risky, last-resort maneuver, PopSci reports, because it risked damaging fragile power and communication lines that attached nearby.
Thankfully, engineers spent a few months practicing in simulations before they made a real attempt.
With tentative results that the mole is working again, NASA hopes to again task it with burrowing beneath the surface of Mars.
Once it’s down there, it will hopefully be able to complete its research mission: analyzing temperature fluctuations inside the Red Planet in an attempt to understand how similar Mars’ core is to that of Earth.