Using a very risky strategy, NASA decided to recover InSight, which is on the ground of Mars, with a tap on the structure itself, using the vehicle’s robotic arm, which has a shovel at the end. The excavation probe got stuck on the surface of the Red Planet due to the weight of the content that it dug itself.
NASA tried other moves before using the InSight arm, but was unsuccessful. Therefore, using the probe’s shovel to rock the entire object appeared as the last alternative. Nicknamed the mole, the device got stuck because scientists did not expect Mars’ soil to be so heavy.
Although successful, the space agency acknowledged that the move was risky and could have damaged the probe. The power and communication lines are located at the ends of the equipment; even if everything remained intact, if the lines were broken, InSight could be inactive or without the possibility of remote control.
Fortunately, engineers had trained movements of this type through simulation, which allowed them to achieve a greater margin of accuracy.
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. 💪 #SaveTheMole
— NASA InSight (@NASAInSight) March 13, 2020
The mission of the “mole”
InSight’s mission is to penetrate the soil of Mars to analyze the temperature variations inside the planet and compare them with those presented on Earth. As the blow with the shovel solved the burial problem, NASA said it could use the tactic at other times, if necessary.