NASA has landed InSight on Mars to drill about 16 feet on Martian land.
But the seeder, also called the "mole" or "self-loading heat probe," plunged only 14 inches into the ground before getting stuck. The space agency will not be able to move the heat detection probe since February.
But NASA has a plan. And the people behind this plan look confident.
"This is a very, very complicated problem," said Ashitai Trebi-Allennu, NASA's chief arsenal engineer. "Sometimes it seems indistinguishable. But we, engineers, love to solve complex problems."
The theory of strategy is theoretically simple enough, but it has great difficulty for deploying tens of millions of miles.
NASA engineers plan to use a robot scoop to scrape red soil into a 14-inch hole and fill it. They will then plant the flat bottom of the metal scoop into the soil next to the mole, thus pinching the drill bit to the scoop.
Thus, the seeder does not bounce as much as in the hole. Instead, the motion of the impact wells will be forced down into what NASA considers to be very compact or clogged soil. (Although it may be a rock that could doom this part of InSight's mission.)
"It may intensify friction to keep moving forward when the mole gets hammered," Sue Smrekar, Deputy InSight Chief Investigator,
Previously, NASA used a scoop to push the ground around the hole, hoping to shatter the hole. The drill won't swing around. But NASA failed to shallow the shallow pit.
Ultimately, the goal is to drill 16 feet in the Martian earth where the probe can measure the heat in the Martian interior. How geologically active is the planet and what is happening below the desert surface are two important questions.
"We are cautious tuned to the fact that one day we will make moles work again, "said Trebby-Allen.