The NASA Insight lander’s “mole” or burrowing machine is once more deep in trouble as it once more fails to burrow deep into the surface of the Red Planet and get data that would help scientists know more about Earth’s distant cousin. 

According to a report from CNET, the InSight lander has been having a hard time sending its heat probe beneath the surface of Planet Mars. In a tweet, the InSight team who keeps track of the instrument tweeted a GIF that shows the Heat and Physical Properties Package (HP3) probe popping back out of the Martian soil. HP3 is more famous for its nickname, “mole.” 

“Mars continues to surprise us. While digging this weekend the mole backed about halfway out of the ground. Preliminary assessment points to unexpected soil properties as the main reason. Team looking at the next steps. #SaveTheMole #Teamwork,” the team tweeted

The probe was deployed to burrow up to 16 feet below the surface and take the temperature of Mars’ core. The project was intended for scientists to know more about how rocky planets are actually formed. 

However, after some time, the mole had to resurface because it encountered some unusual soil properties that make it more difficult to burrow down. It can be remembered that the mole got stuck beneath the surface of Mars last February. 

NASA made use of the lander's robotic arm to help it along before it encountered the latest setback. Per the report, NASA associate administrator Thomas Zurbuchen also shared via Twitter that the engineers are now analyzing data to figure out what happened and that they are expecting to know more within the week. 

Before that, NASA scientists were already “scratching their heads” trying to figure out how to dig further into the surface of the Red Planet. The heat probe or mole of the InSight Lander is supposed to dig up to 10 to 16 feet underground. However, the mole was able to reach only about a foot beneath the surface and could no longer dig its way out for months. 

Because of this, scientists are trying to figure out the Martian soil’s characteristics and discovered that it is unlike anything found on Earth. 

"We scratched our heads for quite a while trying to figure out what we could do," InSight project manager Tom Hoffman from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena said during a presentation at the 22nd Annual International Mars Society Convention in Los Angeles.

Scientists surmised that the reason for the delay in digging may have been caused by “lost friction” on Martian soil. What’s curious about this experiment is that even with the digging activity there were no remnants of any dirt around the edges of the hole where the mole has been burrowing. So where did all the soil go? 

The mysterious occurrence led scientists to believe just how different is the geological makeup of Mars compared to the soil of Earth. "Where did the soil go? Basically, it got pounded back into the ground, so it seems like it’s very cohesive, even though it’s very dusty," Hoffman said. 

Nasa Mole Insight Lander on Mars NASA's InSight lander used its robotic arm to move the support structure for its digging instrument, informally called the "mole." This view was captured by the fisheye Instrument Context Camera under the lander's deck. Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech