NASA’s InSight lander, which is currently on the surface of Mars, has faced some unexpected problems during its mission to explore and study the planet.

Namely, a digging probe that was built to burrow beneath the surface like a jackhammer got stuck because Mars’ soil is clumpier than scientists expected, Popular Science reports.

After a few failed attempts to get it out, NASA had to get a bit creative. Ultimately, it freed the probe up by giving it a solid thwack with InSight’s shovel.

NASA expected its probe, dubbed “the mole,” to dig its way through sand-like terrain. But because the Martian soil clumped together, the whole apparatus got stuck in place.

Programming InSight’s robotic arm to land down on the mole was a risky, last-resort maneuver, PopSci reports, because it risked damaging fragile power and communication lines that attached nearby. Thankfully, engineers spent a few months practicing in simulations before they made a real attempt.

With tentative results that the mole is working again, NASA hopes to again task it with burrowing beneath the surface of Mars.

Once it’s down there, it will hopefully be able to complete its research mission: analyzing temperature fluctuations inside the Red Planet in an attempt to understand how similar Mars’ core is to that of Earth.


The price of a gallon of gasoline has hit 99 cents at a station in Kentucky.

GasBuddy analyst Patrick De Haan was tipped off by users of the GasBuddy app that the Spur 7 BP in on state route 25 in London had dropped below a buck.

Don’t head there looking for a deal right now, though, because an employee at the station told Fox News Autos that the price was already 99 cents on Wednesday and that they’re currently sold out of fuel and didn’t know when the pumps would be open again. Commenters on Gas Buddy say the station is known for its low prices and is often very busy.

(Google Street View)

De Haan earlier this week predicted that the nationwide average, currently $2.20, could soon drop to $1.49 and that 99 cents would be a reality at some locations. A combination of increased supply in Saudi Arabia and Russia with falling demand from efforts to stop the spread of the coronavirus are driving the trend.

But Kentucky, where the statewide average is $1.90, isn’t the only state with a station selling fuel for a rock bottom price. Oklahoma, Mississippi, Tennessee and Kansas all have at least one station with a price under $1.30.


Coronavirus Gone Viral

Limestone County Sheriff Mike Blakely is on trial in Athens, Ala., facing 11 counts of theft and ethics charges related to his job. On Friday, March 6, Blakely went to the hospital, where his lawyers told the court he was being tested for COVID-19 (novel coronavirus). But in a special hearing on Saturday, March 7, Dr. Maria Onoya told Judge Pride Tompkins that while Blakely was, indeed, admitted to the hospital and received multiple tests, none of them was for COVID-19. In fact, she said, there was no evidence to suggest he should be tested for it whatsoever, The News Courier reported. Tompkins ended the hearing with harsh words for Blakely’s defense team: “I don’t know what your tactic is, but it’s condemned by this court,” he said. He went on to note that he was “very disturbed” by the defense’s mention of COVID-19 in the motion to continue, calling it irresponsible, reckless and unfair to the community.


Well that turned out well…..

Meanwhile in Queensland, Australia, people are panicking about running out of toilet paper (and where not?) during the coronavirus pandemic, all of which makes Haidee Janetzki of Toowoomba extra popular after she made an error in a recent, routine, online bathroom tissue order she placed. “When it asked for quantity, I put 48,” she told 7News, “thinking that would be a total of 48 rolls; but it turned out it was 48 boxes containing 36 rolls each!” (That’s 1,728 rolls.) At first she thought it was the online retailer’s fault when she later checked her credit card balance, which showed an expense of $3,660. She decided to keep the rolls, incidentally, and, you guessed it, is selling the hot commodity at a markup.


Godly miracle cure?

Two state attorneys general and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are cracking down on long-disgraced Christian televangelist Jim Bakker, currently host of “The Jim Bakker Show” on cable TV. The New York attorney general’s office on Tuesday, March 3, sent a cease-and-desist order to Bakker, and on Tuesday, March 10, the Missouri attorney general filed suit against him as well. At issue is Bakker’s hawking of “Silver Solution,” a “Godly medication” made from silver that supposedly cures all sorts of ailments—including for use in treating COVID-19. On Wednesday, Feb. 12, The Washington Post reported, Bakker asked a guest on his show whether the gel could cure the coronavirus. “It’s been tested and has been able to eliminate it within 12 hours,” said so-called “naturopathic doctor” Sherrill Sellman. In the letter, the “extremely concerned” Lisa Landau—chief of New York’s Attorney General Health Care Bureau—called the segment false advertising and said it violates state law. Bakker has 10 days to comply.


Better safe than sorry?

A man in Vilnius, Lithuania, with help from his sons, reportedly locked his wife in their bathroom after she expressed worry to him that she had contracted COVID-19 from traveling to Italy, where she came into casual, brief contact with some Chinese people. The husband called a doctor, who suggested she remain indoors and try to maintain at least six feet between herself and other family members for a period of time. Meanwhile, she contacted police because her husband locked her in a bathroom in the home and wouldn’t let her out. Rest assured, all ended (reasonably) well after the panic; she was released from the bathroom, tested for the virus and doesn’t have it.


Avoid cruise ships

The U.S. State Department has advised people, particularly older adults, to avoid cruise ships and air travel during the coronavirus onslaught. But some travelers just can’t be dissuaded. Take, for example, Ben Stults, a sophomore at Florida State University, who will head out on a cruise to Mexico this week for spring break. He’s hoping to “hit the sweet spot,” as he explained; that is, to get there and get home before the virus takes hold in Mexico. To be safe, however, he’s bringing along a respirator face mask and a deck of cards in case of, you know, quarantine. The Daily Beast asked Stults if he thought his plan was a sound one, to which he replied, “Honestly, no.”


Ped-Antic Pigs

Firefighters were called to a farm near Bramham, Leeds, in England on Saturday, March 7, to put out a fire in a large pigpen. At this particular farm, the pigs wear pedometers to prove they’re “free-range,” Fox News reported, but one of those gadgets was the probable cause of the blaze, firefighters said. They theorize that one of the pigs ate one of the pedometers, then passed it in its excrement, sparking a fire in the pen’s hay. The culprit was the copper in the battery reacting with the pig droppings. No pigs were hurt in the fire.