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NASA will attempt to use the InSight Lander robotic arm to “push” a troubled probe back into position

NASA is approaching last resort in mission to convince its InSight probe to dig Mars soil by using a robotic arm to ‘push’ the instrument back into position

  • The robot arm of InSight will try to push a probe further into the bottom of Mars
  • The probe has had difficulty digging in the bottom of Mars in the past year
  • Previous attempts to solve the problem worked temporarily
  • If the maneuver does not work, NASA will attempt to add soil to create more friction

NASA no longer has options in its mission to get the probe of its InSight lander back on track.

According to the agency, it will attempt to use a robotic arm that is attached to its InSight Lander to push down a probe intended to drill into Mars soil and which has had difficulty reaching its mission in the past year.

NASA says the goal is to prevent the probe from jumping out of its partially dug hole, which it has done twice in the last few months, almost to bury itself.

While pushing the probe down with the arm should be relatively easy, NASA recognizes that choosing to do so can cause problems for the instrument if too much force is applied to it.

The concern is that pushing down with the arm can damage a ribbon-like piece of wires that attaches itself to InSight.

These wires deliver crucial data to the lander about the temperature of the soil of Mars and make one of his primary missions possible.

Previous attempts to reset the probe by pushing it aside with the arm were somewhat successful in helping to dig further into the ground, but according to NASA it caused the instrument to jump out of its hole several times.

In March, after less than a year on the surface of Mars, NASA’s InSight Lander reported that the critical instrument – called the “mole” because it is designed to nestle in the planet and assess heat emissions – was a snag touches the grass.

For a few months, the probe, meant to drill 16 feet down, was trapped only 30 centimeters below the surface of the planet after less than a month in its digging process.

Scientists initially claimed that the probe – consisting of a nail and a chain – might have gotten stuck on a particularly strong rock, but observations determined the unforeseen characteristics of the Martian soil.

Scientists originally believed that once the mole began to hammer on the surface, it would break at the rock and form sediment around the probe and cause friction.

The chain (shown) attached to the probe is sensitive and can be damaged in accordance with NASA during the maneuver

The chain (shown) attached to the probe is sensitive and can be damaged in accordance with NASA during the maneuver

The chain (shown) attached to the probe is sensitive and can be damaged in accordance with NASA during the maneuver

Instead, the ground seems to have clumped together and moved away from the instrument, creating empty space between the nail and the surface.

If the maneuver does not work, NASA said it will also consider creating more ground back with the InSight robotic arm to create more pressure and friction.

NASA is no stranger to problems with its Mars missions. In 2009, the rover, Spirit, was trapped in a sandpit and could not reach high enough to charge systems with solar panels.

Similarly, the Mars rover Opportunity got caught in a giant sandstorm last year and blocked the sunlight long enough to lose communication with the device.

WHAT ARE THE THREE KEY INSTRUMENTS OF INSIGHT?

The lander who could reveal how the Earth was formed: InSight lander on its way to landing on Mars on November 26

The lander who could reveal how the Earth was formed: InSight lander on its way to landing on Mars on November 26

The lander who could reveal how the Earth was formed: InSight lander on its way to landing on Mars on November 26

Three important instruments enable the InSight lander to ‘take the pulse’ of the red planet:

seismometer: The InSight lander has one seismometer, SEIS, that listens to the pulse of Mars.

The seismometer records the waves that travel through the inner structure of a planet.

Studying seismic waves tells us what the waves could cause.

On Mars, scientists suspect that the perpetrators can be marsquakes, or meteorites that hit the surface.

Heat probe: InSight’s heat flow probe, HP3, digs deeper than other scoops, drills, or probes on Mars before.

It will investigate how much heat is still flowing from Mars.

Radio antennas: Just like the earth, it wobbles a bit while it rotates around its axis.

To study this, two radio antennas, part of the RISE instrument, follow the location of the lander very precisely.

This helps scientists test the reflexes of the planet and tells them how the deep internal structure influences the movement of the planet around the sun.

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