According to a report released by the space agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) published on Friday, February 21st, the engineering team plans to program the scoop on the probe’s robotic arm to press down on the ‘mole,’ a small pile driver created to dig itself five meters underground.
The team allegedly hopes that this process that will take place on the mole’s top will maintain it from pulling out of the hole, as it did twice in the last few months after it almost buried itself under the Martian soil.
As part of the heat probe, the mole is a 40-centimeter-long stick, geared with an internal hammering system. As it burrows the soil, it can also drag with it a tether resembling a ribbon that comes out of the spacecraft.
There are temperature sensors built around the tether to calculate the heat coming from within the Red Planet’s innermost parts, in order to unveil significant scientific data about the formation of Mars, and, by extension, all the rocky planets, including Earth.
Stuck for a Year Now
The mole managed to stuck in the soil on February 28th, 2019, the very first day it started to hammer. The team on Earth has since stated that the soil is much different from what has been observed in other regions of Mars. InSight touched down in a part of the planet, which abounds in an oddly thick duricrust, which is a layer of cemented soil.
In order to get downward, the mole requires some kind of friction, the engineers determined, without which recoiling from self-hammering could make it bounce in place. In late February and early March, the probe’s arm will be programmed into a position that will allow the team to test it while the mole hammers.
In the meantime, the engineers are also taking into consideration using the scoop to mode more soil into the hole now surrounding the mole. This process could cause some more pressure and friction, enabling the probe to finally continue its mission, the JPL added.