Lifting the Mole

You may remember the problems the Insight Lander is having with “the mole”. The mole being the heat probe deployed from the Insight Lander on Mars. The probe was designed to be pounded into the Martian surface as much as five-meters, but encountered problems shortly after the process of sinking it into the surface began. See “Hope for the Mole” to refresh your memory.

The probe stopped as if it hit a stone and was no longer straight up and down. Whether or not the probe hit an obstruction or had some other mechanical problem needs to be determined and the plan to find out involves lifting the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package or HP3 to get a better look at what was going on.

From NASA;

“Engineers at JPL and DLR have been working hard to assess the problem,” said Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division. “Moving the support structure will help them gather more information and try at least one possible solution.”

The lifting sequence will begin in late June, with the arm grasping the support structure (InSight conducted some test movements recently). Over the course of a week, the arm will lift the structure in three steps, taking images and returning them so that engineers can make sure the mole isn’t being pulled out of the ground while the structure is moved. If removed from the soil, the mole can’t go back in.

The procedure is not without risk. However, mission managers have determined that these next steps are necessary to get the instrument working again.

We can see the structure has been lifted in this image taken on 24 June and we can clearly see the probe beneath the structure at an angle. It appears the probe is angled from being lifted, the package being lifted from one side with a pivot point on the ground, but it also appears the structure has been moved somewhat judging by the pad prints in the soil so what that means for the probe if anything is unclear.

Hopefully the mission team will get the instrument sorted out.

The image was taken with the Instrument Deployment Camera (NASA/JPL-Caltech