Back in Action — “Mining”, On “Barsoom” — NASA’s InSight Lander Mole Has Traction, Again…

We have talked quite a bit about this thrilling — and. . . drilling mission, since mid 2018 — the first of its kind, on the red planet. Being an itinerant hard rock miner myself — I am keenly interested in the physics and geology on Mars, that had thus far stymied the effort.

It seems — unexpectedly (unlike any sands on Earth), the NASA team encountered a geological formation just below the surface — one not seen on Earth. The ice hardened lattices in the sands Insight landed on, on Mars (or Barsoom, in Edgar Rice Burrough’s telling) are like large pads of loosely frozen quicksand. Once it punched through about six inches of hard freeze, the hammering head was simply bouncing up and down in a wide sea of what we might think of as those ice cream dots, one gets from a vending machine at the movie theaters. The hammer head was simply widening the hole, making an inverted cone, but sliding back and forth, rather than pounding downward, toward the five meter goal. What was needed was more. . . friction, it seems. Smile. . . .

Enter the smart people of NASA’s JPL [and German engineering partner team DLR]: they devised a plan to pin the hammering head, against the wall of the hole. The gambit of pushing the lander’s robotic scoop arm against the drilling hammer case has apparently worked. It pinned the head into the hole, and the mole is once again making progress toward the desired five meter drilling depth. Excellent. Here’s a bit from the mission team’s Tweets:

. . . .With an assist from my robotic arm, the mole is digging again! We are just starting this new campaign, and are hopeful we can continue to dig.💪#Mars #Teamwork. . . .”

Excellent — just excellent. More broadly, here is a refresher on the mission parameters, in a more kid-friendly format:

Original video:

Back here on Jasoom, we march onward, then — with some of our grown kids already relocating to their new homes, scattered far and wide, across the country, now. And yet, no recent virtual visits from dear friends. . . . Smile.


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