Behold the “mole”: The heat-sensing spike that NASA’s InSight lander deployed on the Martian surface is now visible. Last week, the spacecraft’s robotic arm successfully removed the support structure of the mole, which has been unable to dig, and placed it to the side. Getting the structure out of the way gives the mission team a view of the mole – and maybe a way to help it dig.
“We’ve completed the first step in our plan to save the mole,” said Troy Hudson of a scientist and engineer with the InSight mission at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “We’re not done yet. But for the moment, the entire team is elated because we’re that much closer to getting the mole moving again.”
Part of an instrument called the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3), the self-hammering mole is designed to dig down as much as 16 feet (5 meters) and take Mars’ temperature. But the mole hasn’t been able to dig deeper than about 12 inches (30 centimeters), so on Feb. 28, 2019 the team commanded the instrument to stop hammering so that they could determine a path forward. [More at link]