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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.
— NASA InSight (@NASAInSight) March 13, 2020
NASA told InSight to push itself free with a shovel
InSight's digging probe was built to burrow under the surface of Mars like a cosmic jackhammer, but it got unexpectantly stuck in the clumpy soil of Mars' surface, Popular Science reports.
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.