NASA’s InSight Lander Is Having Trouble, What You Need To Know [Infographic]

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On Feb 28th NASA’s InSight Lander began digging into the soil of Mars. The goal was to send a tether with temperature sensors down into the surface of the planet in order to take temperature readings. It seems for now, after two rounds of hammering, the digging device has gotten stuck and will remain that way for at least a few weeks while engineers figure out what to do.

What happened?

The instrument in question on NASA’s InSight lander is called the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Probe, or HP3, and it’s supposed to dig down 16 feet into the Martian soil and measure changes in temperature below the surface. The digging mechanism, known as Mole, has encountered some issues. Mole burrows into the soil by hammering itself downward for a few hours at a time. On Feb 28th the first round of 400 hammer blows took place. The digging probe, known as Mole, was able to get to a depth of 7 to 19.7 inches. It encountered at least one obstacle, most likely a rock, on the way down but was able to push past it. Later toward the end of the session, it encountered another obstacle that may have caused an issue.

On March 2nd hammering resumed but no progress was made. The InSight team now thinks that they may have hit an obstruction large enough to tilt the device about 15˚. The obstruction is most likely a larger rock or gravel. If the instrument is tilted it will make future progress difficult.

This graphic show the progress made so far compared to how far they have to go before they reach their goal.Kander10 Designs

What is being done?

For now, the team has halted the hammering in order to examine the available data. This will give them a better idea as to what the problem is and how they can fix it. For now, they are taking temperature readings and collecting data at the current depth.

I will be keeping a close eye on this mission in the coming weeks so you can check here for updates. You can also follow the NASA coverage.

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