NASA may have the most advanced technology at its disposal but when it comes to fixing small problems, it knows that the classic measures will always work. According to NASA’s reports, they programmed the Mars Lander to hit itself with a shovel to get out of a tricky situation!
Last year the Mars Lander launched by NASA to read the underground soil composition suddenly stopped digging deeper. The soil composition of Mars lacked the required amount of friction, making it too clumpy for the Lander to dig through. The heat probe on the device known as the ‘mole’ was expected to work in a more ‘sand-like’ environment so when it encountered an environment denser than that, it got stuck.
This Mars Lander is a part of a project called InSight or Interior Exploration which is using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy, and Heat Transport. InSight aims to explore the deep interiors of the red planet and compare its composition and formation to that of Earth’s.
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
Since its arrival on Mars in November 2018, Mars Lander had collected many valuable data like the sound on Mars, the atmosphere, and also its seismic activities. The sounds on Mars, which reportedly did not start till last April, have been rather surprising. They are well out of human hearing range and have only been caught because of the Lander’s hypersensitivity to all vibrations. It remains to be seen though if they were warnings of quakes or something more.
The seismic activity on Mars, which included 174 seismic events, had twenty events that had a magnitude ranging from three to four. This proved to be an interesting discovery as the quakes on Earth are caused by the movement of tectonic plates and lasts for seconds. The quakes on Mars seem to be caused by crunching because of cooling temperature and last for about a minute.
When at such interesting explorations, the probe failed to dig and got stuck. Despite the risk to the equipment and transmission lines, it became necessary to program the Mars Lander to hit itself to loosen the jam. After months of practice attempts, thankfully the procedure worked and on 13th March, NASA tweeted their success to eager ears.
Now that the robotic arm has successfully disentangled the probe, scientists expect it to probe deeper. The data obtained through Mars Lander on temperature fluctuations on the red planet will be used to study further the making of rocky planets. It will also enable the scientists to compare the core of Mars to Earth’s and look for the answers to meaningful questions regarding their formation.
Featured Image Credit: NASA/JPL-CALTECH