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NASA's attempt to burrow into Mars met 2 insurmountable obstacles: cement-like soil and an unexpected energy shortage

NASA's attempt to burrow into Mars met 2 insurmountable obstacles: cement-like soil and an unexpected energy shortage

An artist illustration of the InSight lander on Mars, with its "mole" burrowed deep in the soil.
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NASA has given up on its InSight lander's "Mars mole" after two years of trying to burrow into the planet's surface.




The Martian soil turned out to be too thick, and dust accumulating on the lander's solar panels was causing the robot to generate less and less power.




No Mars mission in the foreseeable future will take the planet's temperature — a measurement crucial to understanding the planet's history and potential underground water.




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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.
NASA's attempt to burrow into Mars met 2 insurmountable obstacles: cement-like soil and an unexpected energy shortage

The mole, halfway popped out of its hole, on October 26, 2019.
NASA/JPL-Caltech
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