Scientists operating the InSight lander hope to study the geology of Mars, how its land moves and vibrates, and how heat flows beneath its surface.
The InSight lander hit the surface of Mars late last year to do a few key things:
- Stuff a thermometer type probe in the bowels of Mars.
- Test Seismic activity with the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS).
- Measure the planets contents with the Rotation and Interior Structure Experiment (RISE).
Unfortunately, the first task has yielded some complications already.
As the lander's arm probed its first couple of feet in January, the soil refused to give way.
At first personnel suspected that there was some sort of blockage in the way like a large rock, however, the nature of the soil itself seems to be the culprit.
Frustratingly enough, the arm cannot be retracted and simply moved to another location, we are unsure as to why and it seems NASA is either too busy or embarrassed to say.
The tool’s digging component is attached to the support structure by a sensor-filled cable; it’s basically a very long thermometer. It digs into the ground via a mechanism that’s more like a hammer than a drill.
Back to the issues with the soil, scientists navigating InSight now think that the soil quality differs from initial expectations. The soil doesn’t generate enough friction for the probe to dig deeper.
The solution is makeshift at best.
InSight’s scientists will begin by lifting the support structure with the lander’s robotic arm in order to get a better view of the drill.
This will also allow them to test their first solution: pressing on the ground to increase the friction felt by the drill. The drill can’t be removed from the ground, according to NASA, and if the issue really is with the soil quality, moving the drill wouldn’t fix anything anyway.
The lifting of the robotic arm will start later this month.
We hope that InSight will find the friction it needs to plough into the crust of Mars and find deep wonders within.