One of NASA's most exciting missions is that of InSight, which currently calls Mars home. The robotic lander has the potential to teach scientists a lot about the Red Planet and its history, but first NASA has to figure out what to do with one of its important, but underperforming instruments.
The tool, which is described as a "self-hammered mole," was designed to dig several meters on the planet in order to get temperature readings and paint a more complete picture of what is happening in the background. Unfortunately, the first attempt of the instrument fell short of expectations and its engineers are not sure why.
As SpaceNews reports, the German team behind the self-drilling instrument recently discussed the failure of the tool, expressing confusion about the outcome.
"At about 30 centimeters deep we found something," said Tilman Spohn of the German space agency DLR. "We do not know yet if it is a harder layer of regolith or a rock."
At this point, it is not clear if the tool is in the middle of a rock or if the instrument has suffered some kind of problem. The tool only managed to reach a depth of only one foot, but the plan was that it dug up to 16 feet deep. Needless to say, this is a problem, and scientists would like to know why.
In the future, the team plans to capture images of the instrument using the probe and relay them back to Earth. The idea is to see if there is an obvious problem with the tool, and if everything looks good, they will have to assume that they simply found a rock or some other impenetrable object.
The team plans to make another attempt to dig in a few weeks, and we hope that this attempt will result in a deeper hole.