InSight has buried its Mole

The Mole buried

Using the scoop on InSight’s robot arm, engineers have now successfully filled the large hole that had formed around the spacecraft’s mole, the drill that has been trying but failing to dig down about fifteen feet so that a heat sensor could measure the internal temperature of Mars.

The image to the right shows the filled hole with the mole’s communications tether snaking away. Earlier this month they used InSight’s scoop to scrape surface material into the hole, as planned in June. According to the mole’s principle investigate, Tilman Spohn,

I had estimated that the first scrape of 12 centimetres swath length would raise the bottom of the pit but leave the Mole sticking out of the sand. By the way, this was the condition for some to agree to the quite controversial ‘scratch test’. As one can see in the image from Sol 600 shown below, that estimate was not quite right. The scraping was a complete success! The scrape was much more effective than expected and the sand filled the pit almost completely. The Mole is now covered, but there is only a thin layer of sand on the back cap.

Their next step will be to use the scoop to press down on the dirt of the filled hole, with the hope this added pressure will keep the dirt pressed against the mole as it hammers downward, thus holding it place with each downward stroke.


  • Bob Wilson

    Seems like an engineering screwup. Surely they must’ve tested the mole. Is there anything special in Martian dirt that would cause it to screw up.

  • LocalFluff

    @Bob Wilson
    Mars soil turned out to be of the meringue kind, in a way. The mole doesn’t get any friction on its sides as they counted upon, everything just dusts down. Luckily they’ve got a robotic arm, such a thing can be very versatile.

  • Jollster

    Very lucky. That arm was a spare from the Phoenix mission, hence, it had a scoop. If one had been made for this mission, no scoop would have been added.

  • LocalFluff

    Yeah, by mistake they had an extra capability for once.
    When the mole is working, couldn’t they use the scoop to dig a deeper hole in the ground to study its cohesion, since it is a surprise?

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