“Mole” on InSight Mars Lander starts burrowing, but the going is rough (video)

Obstacles have slowed its progress

The “mole” aboard NASA’s InSight Mars lander has encountered stiff resistance on its first subsurface sojourn beneath the surface of the Red Planet.

In a major mission milestone, InSight’s Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) instrument burrowed underground for the first time on Feb. 28. After 400 hammer blows over the course of four hours, the instrument apparently got between 7 inches and 19.7 inches (18 to 50 centimeters) beneath the red dirt — but obstacles slowed its progress, mission team members said.

“On its way into the depths, the mole seems to have hit a stone, tilted about 15 degrees and pushed it aside or passed it,” HP3 principal investigator Tilman Spohn, of the German Aerospace Center (known by its German acronym, DLR), said in a statement.

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