For a long time, the InSight apparatus operating on the surface of Mars cannot penetrate the HP3 probe (Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package), which is informally called the “mole”. This probe, rather resembling a stake rather than a mole, was supposed to be pierced to a depth of five meters with the help of a shock mechanism located inside. It was assumed that by pulling a spring-loaded striker and releasing it, the “mole” will be able to gradually hammer itself to the required depth in order to deliver the sensors there.
However, HP3, not quite rightly called a “drill”, or even a “drill”, stubbornly does not want to go deep. At first, NASA experts found the soil too loose and tried to compact it using a bucket mounted on the InSight manipulator, since some initial friction was necessary for the initial penetration of the probe. Then they tried to help the probe, supporting it with a bucket on the side, but due to lack of friction at some point the probe even “jumped out” of the hole. The idea of clicking on it from above was first discarded, since the risk of damage to the cables connecting the HP3 and InSight was too great. Finally, after a long study and modeling of the situation on Earth, the researchers took the risk. Judging by the report of the NASA InSight team of specialists, the attempt was successful. The cable has not been damaged, and scientists plan to continue to use this approach in the coming weeks, hoping that the probe will be able to deepen further.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. 💪 #SaveTheMoleFAQ: https://t.co/wnhp7c1gPT pic.twitter.com/5wYyn7IwVo
– NASA InSight (@NASAInSight) March 13, 2020