NASA's InSight lander — on Mars' dusty surface — hit a snag during its mission to explore and study the Red Planet. After several attempts to unstick its digging probe, the space agency told InSight to hit itself with a shovel, reportsPopular Science.
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
NASA told InSight to push itself free with a shovel
The probe — called "the mole" — was supposed to dig into the sand-like terrain of the Red Planet without a hitch, but the extra-clumpiness of Martian soil glued the mole temporarily into place.
InSight's fully-functional shovel
So far it seems the mole is working again, and NASA intends to send it back beneath the surface of Mars again shortly.
Once the mole has burrowed down, it's slated to carry InSight's mission to completion: assessing dips and rises in temperature in Mars itself to build a better model of the Martian core and contrast it with Earth's.
It's not impossible to imagine that in ten years or a few more from now, NASA — or Elon Musk's SpaceX — might ask an astronaut to give a surface-based probe on Mars a thwack, instead of the lander itself. Until then, stay tuned here for more developments on Mars, and space exploration.