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NASA Fixes Invaluable Space Probe the Way We All Would: By Smacking It With a Shovel



NASA mars curiosity rover

Sometimes, you just need to smack the problem with a shovel, even if you’re NASA.

NASA’s Mars InSight lander is one of the most sophisticated and expensive pieces of equipment in space, and its continuing mission to seek out new life explore the inner life of Mars via geological and seismic research is sending back all sorts of information, as it studied Mars’ surfaces and upper crust. But InSight’s mission hasn’t been a walk in the park, as one key instrument has met with continued resistance from the ground of the red planet. Literally.

One key tool of the InSight lander is a probe called “The Mole” and its job is to burrow fifteen feet under the surface of Mars, to do things like monitor the core temperature of the planet. Measuring the temperature of Mars’ core will help scientists discover how the planet was formed, which is very cool. But the mole kinda … got stuck last year.

NASA scientists aren’t sure what the problem is. According to PopSci, the robotic mole was designed to basically bounce up and down and sink deeper in the sandy soil with each bounce. But the mole may have hit a rock or harder soil and just wasn’t moving. They tried to “punch down the walls of the hole around it” and push the mole against the side of the hole so it has more resistance, but it just wasn’t working so it was time for plan C, aka “Hit it with a shovel.”

InSight’s scoop would basically push down the Mole, but that’s trickier than it sounds. The equipment is delicate ant the connection between InSight and the Mole could have been damaged in the process, but luckily the people at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab are really good at controlling shovels in space and the risky move worked!

This is great news, both for NASA, science and for those of us that have always known that the best way to fix something when all else fails is to hit it really hard. So, congrats NASA, and thanks for the validation.

(via: Jalopnik. image: NASA/JPL/Cornell University

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Jessica Mason (she/her) is a writer based in Portland, Oregon with a focus on fandom, queer representation, and amazing women in film and television. She's a trained lawyer and opera singer as well as a mom and author.