Mars Insight lander tasked with the exploration and study of Mars has seen its fair share of speedbumps.
Its little digging probe (nicknamed "the mole") burrows under the crust of the planet, however, it has been stuck due to the unforeseen "clumpiness" of Mars soil.
The probe works as a jackhammer and after a few jammed incidents, NASA personnel had to get creative.
To compare Mars soil to something on Earth it would be out typical beach sand.
And any decent Australian will know that digging in the sand is sometimes an uphill battle.
As the probe would hammer its way down into the sand, more would fall on top of the probe meaning it was entrenched in the sand and could not lift up to drop back down and penetrate more of the brown surface.
Watch it in action here:
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
FAQ: https://t.co/wnhp7c1gPT pic.twitter.com/5wYyn7IwVo
A unanimous decision was made to free the stuck probe using unorthodox means; dropping the robotic shovel arm that's part of the digging apparatus onto "the mole".
Sounds risky? It was.
The impact could damage the sensitive power and communication lines that run close to the arm, meaning she could die or be cut off from communication from Earth.
Fortunately, NASA personnel don't take risks too lightly and several hundred practice attempts were made in simulations over a few months before committing to the final blow.
As of now the mole is still functioning with cautiously optimistic results but could become stuck again at any moment.
Realistically, Lander can't uppercut itself every time it gets stuck.
The accumulation of damage would simply be too high and rolling the dice each time is simply too great of a risk.
For now, we are back in form atop of Mars and penetrating the crusty brown surface analysing temperature fluctuations to understand how similar Mars' core is to Earths.
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