'Mole' on InSight Mars Lander Starts Burrowing, But the Going Is Rough

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.

"The mole then worked its way up against another stone at an advanced depth until the planned four-hour operating time of the first sequence expired," Spohn added.

The $850 million InSight lander — whose name is short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport — touched down on Nov. 26 .

It will do this primarily by characterizing "marsquakes" and other vibrations with a suite of supersensitive seismometers, which was built by a consortium led by the French space agency CNES; and measuring subsurface heat flow with HP3, which DLR provided.

Burrowing generates heat that would compromise HP3's measurements, so the instrument pauses to cool off for two Mars days after each four-hour hammering session.

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