NASA’s InSight Mars lander acquired this Sol 203, June 23 image using its robotic arm-mounted, Instrument Deployment Camera (IDC).
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Scientists and engineers are moving forward with a new plan for getting NASA InSight’s heat probe, also known as the “mole,” digging again on Mars.

NASA’s InSight Mars lander acquired this image of the area in front of the lander using its lander-mounted, Instrument Context Camera (ICC). Image acquired on June 23, 2019, Sol 203.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Part of an instrument called the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3), the mole is a self-hammering spike designed to dig as much as 16 feet (5 meters) below the surface and record temperature.

But the Germany-provided mole hasn’t been able to dig deeper than about 12 inches (30 centimeters) below the Martian surface since Feb. 28, 2019.

The self-hammering mole, part of the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) on NASA’s InSight lander, was only partially buried in the soil of Mars as of early June 2019, as shown in this illustration.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/DLR

Engineers in a Mars-like test area at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory try possible strategies to aid the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) on NASA’s InSight lander, using engineering models of the lander, robotic arm and instrument.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

The device’s support structure blocks the lander’s cameras from viewing the mole, so the team is using InSight’s robotic arm to lift the structure out of the way. Depending on what they see, the team might use InSight’s robotic arm to help the mole further later this summer.

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