NASA has fixed a problem with its Mars lander, essentially by telling the lander to use a robotic arm to help itself – or, depending on the headlines you read, to whack itself. Plus: a Wisconsin man finds a clever way to share a beer with his neighbor in the era of social distancing.
It’s considerably calmer on the surface of Mars, now that NASA has apparently fixed a problem with its lander.
The fix itself was not exactly calm, though: they smacked the poor thing with a shovel!
Mars is tens of millions of miles away, so we’re not sending tech support to carry out repairs.
When something’s not working, NASA teams have to basically teach the Mars rover to fix itself.
In this case, the problem was with a probe nicknamed “the mole.”
It’s a kind of jackhammer that’s supposed to push itself into the Martian soil and measure the heat from the interior of the planet.
But it’s had problems.
It keeps trying to get out of the hole it digs, rather than going further down.
Once it almost buried itself.
There’s not enough friction to keep its place and dig deeper.
So NASA told the lander to give itself a helping hand – specifically, the robotic arm, which has a shovel on its end.
With the shovel pushing down from above, the mole can now stay in place, dig deeper and do what it’s intended to do.
And near as I can tell, the lander’s arms can still take those magical selfies that don’t include the arm in the photo.
Here’s another story of long-distance problem solving out of Richfield, Wisconsin, where a guy called Eric Trzcinski had an idea.
He wanted to share a beer with his neighbor and friend Trevor Reinke, across the street.
But how to do it safely when we’re all supposed to keep our distance?
Trzcinski put the beer in his remote control car and drove it over to Reinke’s house.
And if you’re wondering, yes, the beer he sent over was a Corona.
Photo: Curiosity at the ‘Mary Anning’ Location on Mars. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)