NASA InSight’s ‘Mole’ Is Out of Sight

NASA’s InSight retracted its robotic arm on Oct. 3, 2020, revealing where the spike-like “mole” is trying to burrow into Mars. The copper-colored ribbon attached to the mole has sensors to measure the planet’s heat flow. In the coming months, the arm will scrape and tamp down soil on top of the mole to help it dig. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Now that the heat probe is just below the Martian surface, InSight’s arm will scoop some additional soil on top to help it keep digging so it can take Mars’ temperature.


PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s InSight lander continues working to get its “mole” – a 16-inch-long (40-centimeter-long) pile driver and heat probe – deep below the surface of Mars. A camera on InSight’s arm recently took images of the now partially filled-in “mole hole,” showing only the device’s science tether protruding from the ground.

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NASA’s New Mars Rover Is Ready for Space Lasers

Visible both in the inset photograph on the upper left and near the center of NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover in this illustration is the palm-size dome called the Laser Retroreflector Array (LaRA). In the distant future, laser-equipped Mars orbiters could use such a reflector for scientific studies. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Perseverance is one of a few Mars spacecraft carrying laser retroreflectors. The devices could provide new science and safer Mars landings in the future.

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — When the Apollo astronauts landed on the Moon, they brought devices with them called retroreflectors, which are essentially small arrays of mirrors. The plan was for scientists on Earth to aim lasers at them and calculate the time it took for the beams to return. This provided exceptionally precise measurements of the Moon’s orbit and shape, including how it changed slightly based on Earth’s gravitational pull.

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InSight Misson Logbook: Mars Mole Work Suspended for Now

The movement of sand grains in the scoop on the end of NASA InSight’s robotic arm suggests that the spacecraft’s self-hammering “mole,” which is in the soil beneath the scoop, had begun tapping the bottom of the scoop while hammering on June 20, 2020. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

DLR Mission Update

In his logbook, Instrument Lead Tilman Spohn who is back in Berlin since April and communicating with JPL via the web, gives us the latest updates regarding the InSight mission and our HP3 instrument – the ‘Mole’ – which will hammer into the Martian surface.

Logbook entry 7 July 2020

On Saturday 20 June 2020 (Sol 557 on Mars), the team completed the ‘Free Mole Test’ announced in my previous blog post. The result was not quite what we had optimistically hoped for, but was also not entirely a surprise. The ‘Mole’ started bouncing in place after making some progress without direct support from the scoop on 13 June (Sol 550).

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NASA’s InSight Flexes Its Arm While Its ‘Mole’ Hits Pause

The movement of sand grains in the scoop on the end of NASA InSight’s robotic arm suggests that the spacecraft’s self-hammering “mole,” which is in the soil beneath the scoop, had begun tapping the bottom of the scoop while hammering on June 20, 2020. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s InSight lander has been using its robotic arm to help the heat probe known as the “mole” burrow into Mars. The mission is providing the first look at the Red Planet’s deep interior to reveal details about the formation of Mars and, ultimately, all rocky planets, including Earth.

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Major Space Agency Heads Hold Virtual Meeting

Translated from French by Google Translate

PARIS (CNES PR) — Tuesday, June 9, fifteen heads of space agencies from around the world (European Space Agency (ESA), Germany, Australia, Canada, South Korea, United Arab Emirates, France, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, News – Zealand, Russia, United Kingdom) participated, at the invitation of NASA, in a virtual meeting to exchange their points of view on the progress of human and robotic exploration. 

Because of COVID-19, this meeting could not be held, as every year, at the time of the Colorado Springs Space Symposium initially scheduled for the end of March. 

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Controllers Continue to Hammer InSight Mole into Mars

Illustration of HP3 mole instrument on NASA’s InSight Mars lander. (Credit: DLR)

InSight HP3 Mole Update
German Aerospace Center (DLR)

In his logbook, Instrument Lead Tilman Spohn who is back in Berlin since April and communicating with JPL via the web, gives us the latest updates regarding the InSight mission and our HP3 instrument – the ‘Mole’ – which will hammer into the Martian surface.

Logbook entry 3 June 2020

More than three months have passed since my last blog post, when I had to report that the ‘Mole’ had unfortunately backed out again. Not as much as in October, but nevertheless, after going 1.5 centimetres into the surface, it reversed direction and backed out by 1.5 plus 3.5 centimetres, with the back cap ending a total of approximately five centimetres above the deepest position reached at the time and about seven centimetres above the surface. I described the situation in more detail in my previous post, in which I also detailed how the team attempted to explain the downward and then upward motion during one single hammering session (we had not seen this before).

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NASA Scientists Tapped to Mature More Rugged Seismometer System to Measure Moonquakes

A next-generation seismometer could be deployed autonomously, unlike the systems deployed in the past. In this photo, Apollo 12 astronaut Alan Bean carries the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package to its deployment site on the Moon. (Credits: NASA)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — NASA hasn’t measured moonquakes since Apollo astronauts deployed a handful of measuring stations at various locations on the lunar surface and discovered unexpectedly that Earth’s only natural satellite was far from seismically inactive.

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Seismic Activity on Mars Resembles that Found in the Swabian Jura

Cereberus Fossae was shaped by volcanism and tectonics, (Credits: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin)
  • The SEIS experiment on board NASA’s InSight geophysical station recorded 174 seismic events up to the end of September 2019.
  • Weak earthquakes – magnitude less than three to four.
  • Accompanying measurements provide information about the local weather conditions.
  • In the coming weeks, the Mars ‘Mole’ is to be assisted more effectively by pressure from above applied with the robotic arm.

COLOGNE (DLR PR) — Mars is a seismically active planet – quakes occur several times a day. Although they are not particularly strong, they are easily measurable during the quiet evening hours. This is one of many results of the evaluation of measurement data from the NASA InSight lander, which has been operating as a geophysical observatory on the surface of Mars since 2019.

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400 Marsquakes Detected by UK Sensors in One Year

This image from InSight’s robotic-arm mounted Instrument Deployment Camera shows the instruments on the spacecraft’s deck, with the Martian surface of Elysium Planitia in the background. The image was received on Dec. 4, 2018 (Sol 8). (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

SWINDON, UK (UK Space Agency PR) — The NASA InSight lander, which is supported by the UK Space Agency, has recorded 400 likely ‘Marsquakes’ in the first year of its mission.

The seismic vibrations on Mars were detected by a set of silicon sensors developed in the UK for InSight’s Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS).

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A Year of Surprising Science From NASA’s InSight Mars Mission

In this artist’s concept of NASA’s InSight lander on Mars, layers of the planet’s subsurface can be seen below and dust devils can be seen in the background. (Credits: IPGP/Nicolas Sarter)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — A new understanding of Mars is beginning to emerge, thanks to the first year of NASA’s InSight lander mission. Findings described in a set of six papers published today reveal a planet alive with quakes, dust devils and strange magnetic pulses.

Five of the papers were published in Nature. An additional paper in Nature Geoscience details the InSight spacecraft’s landing site, a shallow crater nicknamed “Homestead hollow” in a region called Elysium Planitia.

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NASA’s Mars InSight Lander to Push on Top of the ‘Mole’

NASA InSight recently moved its robotic arm closer to its digging device, called the “mole,” in preparation to push on its top, or back cap. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — After nearly a year of trying to dig into the Martian surface, the heat probe belonging to NASA’s InSight lander is about to get a push. The mission team plans to command the scoop on InSight’s robotic arm to press down on the “mole,” the mini pile driver designed to hammer itself as much as 16 feet (5 meters) down. They hope that pushing down on the mole’s top, also called the back cap, will keep it from backing out of its hole on Mars, as it did twice in recent months after nearly burying itself.

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Update on InSight’s Mars Mole

InSight Mars mole partially backed out from its hole. (Credit:: NASA)

BERLIN (DLR PR) — In his logbook, Instrument Lead Tilman Spohn who is back in Berlin since April and communicating with JPL via the web, gives us the latest updates regarding the InSight mission and our HP3 instrument – the ‘Mole’ – which will hammer into the Martian surface.

Logbook entry 28 October 2019

More surprises on Mars! Unfortunately, we saw that the Mole had backed-out of the Martian soil instead of going deeper as we had expected. How could that happen? After all, this Mole does not have a reverse gear as the Mole that DLR built for the ill-fated European Beagle II lander had. (That probe was designed as a sampling device that would go down and then come up again with a sample.)

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Mars InSight’s Mole Has Partially Backed Out of Its Hole

InSight Mars mole partially backed out from its hole. (Credit NASA)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — After making progress over the past several weeks digging into the surface of Mars, InSight’s mole has backed about halfway out of its hole this past weekend. Preliminary assessments point to unusual soil conditions on the Red Planet. The international mission team is developing the next steps to get it buried again.

A scoop on the end of the arm has been used in recent weeks to “pin” the mole against the wall of its hole, providing friction it needs to dig. The next step is determining how safe it is to move InSight’s robotic arm away from the mole to better assess the situation. The team continues to look at the data and will formulate a plan in the next few days.

Meantime, the lander’s seismometer — the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure, or, SEIS — continues to collect data on marsquakes in order to provide a better understanding of the Mars interior and why Earth and the Red Planet are so different today after sharing similarities billions of years ago. The French space agency, Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES) and its partners provided the SEIS instrument to NASA.

Mars InSight’s ‘Mole’ Is Moving Again

DLR Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP³) on the surface of Mars. (Credit: NASA)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s InSight spacecraft has used its robotic arm to help its heat probe, known as “the mole,” dig nearly 2 centimeters (3/4 of an inch) over the past week. While modest, the movement is significant: Designed to dig as much as 16 feet (5 meters) underground to gauge the heat escaping from the planet’s interior, the mole has only managed to partially bury itself since it started hammering in February 2019.

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