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Home https://server7.kproxy.com/servlet/redirect.srv/sruj/smyrwpoii/p2/ Science https://server7.kproxy.com/servlet/redirect.srv/sruj/smyrwpoii/p2/ The self-confidence of the NASA Mars probe may not seem to actually be digging into the ground

The self-confidence of the NASA Mars probe may not seem to actually be digging into the ground



NASA's newest Mars lander has problems with one of its main tools – a self-striking probe that just can't seem to bump into interplanetary dirt. Over the weekend, the probe was trying to dig into Martian soil when it unexpectedly popped out of the ground. Now NASA engineers are trying to troubleshoot to see if they can get this tool to explode beneath the surface of Mars for its intended purpose.

The probe belongs to the NASA InSight lander – a small-car-sized robot that landed on Mars in November of 2018. The purpose of InSight is to understand what the interiors of Mars are made of, and the lander has two main tools that used to "look inside" the planet. Its main instrument is a seismometer tuned to listen for earthquakes or vibrations in the Earth's crust. These earthquakes act a little like ultrasounds; the waves pass through the core of the planet, carrying details of what kinds of material are trapped inside. So far, InSight's seismometer has detected about 1

00 vibrations, 21 of which are suspected to be earthquakes.


Artistic depiction of the NASA InSight Mars Mars landing gear with its seismometer and heat probe.
Image: NASA [19659005] InSight's second major tool is the heat probe, nicknamed the mole. It is supposed to be knocking into the ground immediately next to InSight and taking the temperature of Mars. Working on a plan could give scientists more information about how much heat is leaving the planet's interior. But the mole wasn't as lucky as the seismometer. In fact, a lot of problems started when InSight reached the Red Planet. Since it began digging at the end of February, it has failed to walk more than 14 centimeters (35 centimeters), although it is designed to dig up to 16 feet (5 meters).

The InSight team believes that the soil around the mole may be to blame. While digging, the mole needs the soil to fall evenly around the probe, providing friction that allows the tool to hammer further underground. Otherwise, it would be easy to go up and down in one place, according to NASA. But testing has shown that the soil in this particular location is unlike the soil encountered by previous Mars landings. It clusters around the probe and does not provide friction. This may explain the slow motion.

In order to make the mole tunnel supposedly, NASA engineers decided to use InSight's robotic arm to squeeze the mole as it tried to dig. The idea was to attach the mole to the side of the hole it created, providing the necessary friction that seems to be missing. It seems to have been working for the last few weeks, but then this weekend, images from the InSight lander showed that the probe had partially receded from its hole. Again NASA blames "unusual soil conditions."

Now the InSight team is trying to figure out what to do next. If it is safe, they may try to move the robotic arm of the lander from the mole to better understand what is happening to the probe. If the worst case scenario becomes a reality and the probe can't dig underground, this is not the end of the world for the InSight mission. The main purpose of the lander is to learn more about the core of Mars by listening to Muscovites, which it successfully does. Although taking into account the temperature of the Martian interior will help characterize the interior of the planet, it is not essential to the overall mission.
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