Mars probe Phoenix flexes robotic arm

May 29, 2008
Artist's concept of Phoenix on the surface of Mars

NASA's Phoenix Mars lander flexed its robotic arm Thursday in a successful test of the key element in the probe's mission to investigate the Red Planet's soil for conditions conducive to life, NASA said.

"The arm is ready to go" said Matt Robinson of the US space agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, where the Phoenix mission is managed.

"Yesterday we sent commands ... down to the lander to unstow the arm, and today I am ecstatic to let you know that it was successful.

"The robotic arm is now unstowed, it's out of its launch restraints."

The 2.35 meter- (7.7 foot-) titanium and aluminum backhoe-like extension, with a scoop on the end to dig into the Martian arctic permafrost-like soil, unlatched its arm-locks by command from the JPL, lifted its forearm and then freed its elbow restraint.

"We have achieved a major milestone for the mission," said Barry Goldstein, Phoenix project manager at the JPL.

The next step is to test the arm's four joints to be sure it is in working order before beginning to dig into the soil.

With its hard scoop on the end, the arm can dig a half-meter (20 inches) into Martian soil, where scientists hope to prove the existence of water in its liquid form and organic minerals, both of which need to be present for the existence of microbial life.

(c)AFP 2008

Explore further: THEMIS camera helps NASA pick site for next Mars lander

Related Stories

THEMIS camera helps NASA pick site for next Mars lander

March 6, 2015

NASA's next Mars space probe, a lander named InSight, is due to touch down on the Red Planet in September 2016 with a mission focused on the planet's internal properties. Its landing place has been chosen with help from a ...

Construction to begin on 2016 NASA Mars lander

May 20, 2014

( —NASA and its international partners now have the go-ahead to begin construction on a new Mars lander, after it completed a successful Mission Critical Design Review on Friday.

Mars Icebreaker Life mission

May 16, 2013

Missions to Mars have only scratched its surface. To go deeper, scientists are proposing a spacecraft that can drill into the Red Planet to potentially find signs of life.

Engineers building hard-working mining robot

January 29, 2013

(—After decades of designing and operating robots full of scientific gear to study other worlds, NASA is working on a prototype that leaves the delicate instruments at home in exchange for a sturdy pair of diggers ...

Curiosity rover: No big surprise in first soil test

December 3, 2012

(—NASA's Mars Curiosity rover has used its full array of instruments to analyze Martian soil for the first time, and found a complex chemistry within the Martian soil. Water and sulfur and chlorine-containing substances, ...

Recommended for you

What are white holes?

October 9, 2015

Black holes are created when stars die catastrophically in a supernova. So what in the universe is a white hole?

How to prepare for Mars? NASA consults Navy sub force

October 5, 2015

As NASA contemplates a manned voyage to Mars and the effects missions deeper into space could have on astronauts, it's tapping research from another outfit with experience sending people to the deep: the U.S. Navy submarine ...

A mission to a metal world—The Psyche mission

October 9, 2015

In their drive to set exploration goals for the future, NASA's Discovery Program put out the call for proposals for their thirteenth Discovery mission in February 2014. After reviewing the 27 initial proposals, a panel of ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.