back to article What's the scoop with Mars InSight's mired mole? It's digging again, thanks to trowel trickery

There was good news for Martian miners this week as NASA's stuck mole began making progress into the red planet's soil once more. The multinational instrument, a key part of the payload of NASA's InSight spacecraft, had been stuck at the 30cm mark out of a hoped-for 5m after hammering began in February. Boffins used the lander …

  1. Marketing Hack Silver badge

    OK, but just as long as we all know that if InSight strikes oil, Uncle Sam will have no choice but to invade Mars....

    USA! USA!! USA!!!

    1. Bite my finger

      It would be nice to see a pure science story involving another world without having some fanatic gratuitously inject Earthly partisan politics anyway.

      1. oldfartuk

        yes, but we're talking about humans here, thats not likely to happen, is it?

    2. Blackjack

      If they use a nuclear rocket to go to mars..

      The digger mole bot would have to find usable radioactive materials instead.

    3. Tom 7 Silver badge

      History tells us this is really Germany Germany Germany.

    4. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Desperate for some positive nationalism or what?

    5. IT Poser

      My homeland got bitchslapped by Turkey.

      Team America: World Police isn't invading anywhere successfully anytime soon. Before we can even consider doing so we have to make America great again. Great like we haven't been since November 8th, 2016. Given how far we've fallen in less than three short years it is hard to ever see being great again.

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        You got the wrong date. November 8th 2016 is the date at which the USA stopped being a democracy and became a pathetic joke. The only one who can be genuinely happy about that is Dubya, because everyone's forgotten him now.

        Yet I disagree with your conclusion. Yes, the USA has fallen far, far below what the Founding Fathers had wished for, but the American people are good people, and some of them are trying their damnedest to turn the ship around and head back to calm waters. In the end, I'm sure they will prevail.

        The only question is how many generations will be wasted in the meantime.

        1. Unicornpiss Silver badge

          DR test

          Being in IT, I consider the Trump administration to just be one big DR test of how well the founding fathers crafted the checks and balances in our political and governing systems. Since we've managed to avert WWIII thus far, there hasn't been a coup, and the economy is not in the toilet yet, I think the wisdom of our forefathers holds true. Many other countries would likely be experiencing civil war by now. (of course we've been there, done that too) However, like any DR situation, that UPS battery or generator power isn't going to last forever, so I HOPE that people do a bit better with their choices in the next election..

    6. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Sometimes you just have to use the joke alert icon.

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Making America grate again?

    7. Unicornpiss Silver badge

      No dinosaurs

      Well, since no traces of current or past life have been discovered thus far, other than some precursors, it's pretty unlikely that anything greasy will be found, at least until the first politicians are sent to Mars..

  2. Stevie Silver badge


    What a shame someone couldn't just dig out the hole with a fence-post augur to get it started.

    60 bucks from Amazon.

    1. Spherical Cow Bronze badge

      Re: Bah!

      60 bucks yeah, but the freight is astronomical.

      1. Sven Coenye

        Re: Bah!

        But it says free shipping over $35!

        1. DougS Silver badge

          Re: Bah!

          That's obviously why Bezos started Blue Origin, so Amazon can have packages waiting for the first astronauts to reach Mars!

          1. Tom 7 Silver badge

            Re: Bah!

            Delivered to the wrong side of the planet.

            1. TRT Silver badge

              Re: Bah!

              It was delivered to the correct side of the planet... but no-one though to equip the robot arm with a case knife or a pair of scissors. All that way to be defeated by the packaging.

            2. Stoneshop Silver badge

              Re: Bah!

              Left with the neighbours.

              1. Scroticus Canis

                "I wonder what this is?" said Baby Clanger

                Whistle, whistle, etc...

  3. HildyJ

    I'm not surprised

    First rule of electronics - if something doesn't work, hit it.

    1. Killing Time

      Re: I'm not surprised

      'if something doesn't work, hit it.'

      Also known as percussive maintenance....

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: I'm not surprised

        Corrective tap action.

    2. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: I'm not surprised

      Given this is the John Henry method of making holes you'd think it was self beating.

    3. Muscleguy Silver badge

      Re: I'm not surprised

      We have a family friend who used to work for IBM here in Blighty back in mainframe days. He was called in somewhere to a non functional machine and asked if they had tried giving it a kick and shamefacedly they said they had. Knowing the likely cause he told them they hadn't done it in the right place. Drew and X on the right spot, gave it a reasonable thump and the machine whirred into life again.

      It wasn't quite back in the days when bugs were named due to the tendency of moths to get in and get roasted onto switches, but not far past that point. Back when Babbage's Difference Engine could still be viewed as a credible precursor to the uninitiated. Try telling the Yoof that.

      There's a fun article in the Graun today about getting today's teens to try and operate past tech, like a rotary dial phone. Back in the early '90s they were replacing the rotary phones in the dept with push button jobs and I scored a genuine phone for the kids to play with. Won plaudits from the missus for that one.

  4. Palpy

    "The mole is not out of the woods yet."

    For some reason this strikes my funnybone. Cleese, Idle, and a pantomime horse surveying a patch of oaks with oversized binoculars: "The mole is not out of the woods yet." Followed by an explosion. Peter Sellers as the Inspector: "Ze mewl ees not owut of ze woods yecht." Straight: "You said 'mewl""... Sellers, wistfully: "... Yes, I did."

    Robots digging holes on Mars, photographing Pluto, shooting asteroids at close range, sniffing comet gas. What an age we live in.

    1. oldfartuk

      Re: "The mole is not out of the woods yet."

      and yet............the search for extraterrestial life has STILL not located, anywhere in the galaxy, a cricket team capable of beating the Australians.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "The mole is not out of the woods yet."

        At least we can still stuff them at rugby.

      2. OssianScotland Silver badge

        Re: "The mole is not out of the woods yet."

        Douglas Adams sorted that out, didn't he?

        Thank you, the one with the complete HHGTG in the pocket, please

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Three finger salute?

    "Even on Mars, sometimes a Ctrl-Alt-Delete is all you need."

    Rumor has it Martians have three fingers on each hand.

    1. OssianScotland Silver badge

      Re: Three finger salute?

      Shirley that was Raman's?

  6. swm Bronze badge

    Great work-around

    Think of the cleverness of getting something to work millions of miles away! Even the speed of light takes half an hour to get there. I think these guys are amazing.

    1. Unicornpiss Silver badge

      Re: Great work-around

      Overall, you can't fault NASA and JPL's build quality and engineering.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Great work-around

        True. Bur they didn't build the mole/

  7. Chris G Silver badge

    Nice to see

    The simplest solutions sometimes work.

    Pinning or pressing down on top of the mole as I suggested twelve days ago in these columns.

    Think there's any chance they read the Reg?

  8. tiggity Silver badge

    Maybe they didn't read enough SF

    Lots of plot lines in books about PITA martian dust and lack of friction (though many from back in the day before better knowledge around the dust being almost like a "puddle" (property wise) on the surface) I expected the mole to have some way to "grip" while in the hole as even if soil was hard dust likely to get blown into the hole as dust-storms common on Mars

  9. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

    I'll raise a glass

    to the mole, plumbing new depths!

  10. JCitizen

    Data flip...

    I just knew that cosmic ray was the one that knocked my PC out of commission; a reboot fixed everything of course!

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