NASA sent its InSight lander to Mars with an ambitious mission: to study the planet’s deep internal structure. A crucial piece of that effort — the “mole” — has failed despite two years of attempts to salvage it.
The mole is a revolutionary heat probe designed to burrow 16 feet into the Martian soil and take the planet’s temperature. Its measurements would have revealed clues about how the planet formed and has changed over the last 4.6 billion years — a history that would help scientists track down Martian water, and possibly life.
But the mole has made little progress in the unexpectedly thick soil. Now the InSight team must ration the lander’s solar power. NASA announced Thursday that the mole won’t be able to dig its hole.
“It’s a bit of a personal tragedy,” Sue Smrekar, a lead scientist on the InSight team who has spent 10 years working on the mole, told Insider. “Everyone tried as hard as they could make it work. So I can’t ask for anything more than that.”