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NASA Finds Solution to Address InSight Mars Lander’s Digging Issue

1 min read

Jeff Brody

NASA plans to address the digging limitation of the InSight Mars robot’s heat probe that results from structures blocking the lander’s cameras. The heat probe is a hammering spike originally geared to dig up to 16 feet under Martian ground. However, misplaced support structures have limited the probe to no more than 12 inches of digging, the space agency said Wednesday.

A team of scientists and engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory have analyzed the problem for months and are hypothesizing the cause to be a lack in soil friction around the InSight lander. JPL is working to address the problem with the German Aerospace Center, provider of the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package that the probe is part of.

NASA personnel plan to use the lander’s robotic arm to move the structures out of the camera’s field of view. The space agency may push through with the plan in late June. Tilman Spohn, HP3 principal investigator at the German Aerospace Center, said using the robotic arm would address the lack of soil friction, based on calculations.