Click for full image.
The Insight engineering team has successfully lifted the mole structure allowing them to see the hole the mole was pounding into the Martian ground in their effort to diagnose why the mole has been unable to drill more than a foot or so down.
The image to the right shows the mole, the white tubelike structure, inside the hole. As noted by Instrument Lead Tilman Spohn,
I along with others from the team were a bit shocked when we saw how large the pit actually is. Its diameter is about two times the diameter of the mole. The bottom of the pit is difficult to see (we expect better images once the lift is complete) but it seems that it is about 2-2.5 mole diameters deep. A mole diameter is 27mm. So the mole must have compacted the regolith quite a bit. In addition to its own volume it must have displaced about half of its buried volume.
There seems to be a little rim surrounding the pit but most of the displacement likely was compaction. We cannot see the inclination of the wall very well but it at least seems to me that the mole was “precessing” (like a spinning top) and carved a conical hole. This is consistent with the recordings of our tiltmeter STATIL during the hammering in March. We will have to wait for better images to confirm or disprove that. In any case, the apparent compaction seems to be compatible with a large porosity, relatively low density.
What they do next is unknown. From what I understand, they do not have the option of lifting the mole out and trying a different location. Moreover, the images and data suggest it wouldn’t matter anyway. The mole is apparently not designed to drill a shaft in this kind of ground.
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