Phoenix Lander Has An Oven Full Of Martian Soil

June 11, 2008
Phoenix Lander Has An Oven Full Of Martian Soil
NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander's Surface Stereo Imager took this image on Sol 14 (June 8, 2008), the 14th Martian day after landing.

NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander has filled its first oven with Martian soil. "We have an oven full," Phoenix co-investigator Bill Boynton of the University of Arizona, Tucson, said today. "It took 10 seconds to fill the oven. The ground moved."

Boynton leads the Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer instrument, or TEGA, for Phoenix. The instrument has eight separate tiny ovens to bake and sniff the soil to assess its volatile ingredients, such as water.

The lander's Robotic Arm delivered a partial scoopful of clumpy soil from a trench informally called "Baby Bear" to the number 4 oven on TEGA last Friday, June 6, which was 12 days after landing.

A screen covers each of TEGA's eight ovens. The screen is to prevent larger bits of soil from clogging the narrow port to each oven so that fine particles fill the oven cavity, which is no wider than a pencil lead. Each TEGA chute also has a whirligig mechanism that vibrates the screen to help shake small particles through.

Only a few particles got through when the screen on oven number 4 was vibrated on June 6, 8 and 9.

Boynton said that the oven might have filled because of the cumulative effects of all the vibrating, or because of changes in the soil's cohesiveness as it sat for days on the top of the screen.

"There's something very unusual about this soil, from a place on Mars we've never been before," said Phoenix Principal Investigator Peter Smith of the University of Arizona. "We're interested in learning what sort of chemical and mineral activity has caused the particles to clump and stick together."

Plans prepared by the Phoenix team for the lander's activities on Thursday, June 12 include sprinkling Martian soil on the delivery port for the spacecraft's Optical Microscope and taking additional portions of a high-resolution color panorama of the lander's surroundings.

Source: NASA

Explore further: Phoenix Vibrates Soil on Oven Door

Related Stories

Phoenix Vibrates Soil on Oven Door

June 9, 2008

This animation shows a sample of Martian soil resting on a screen over the opening to one of the eight ovens of the Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer instrument on Phoenix. After vibration, the soil slumped almost imperceptibly ...

Soil Studies Continue at Site of Phoenix Mars Lander

August 11, 2008

( -- NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander has continued studies of its landing site by widening a trench, making overnight measurements of conductivity in the Martian soil and depositing a sample of surface soil into a ...

Recommended for you

Timing a sextuple quasar

December 1, 2015

Quasars are galaxies with massive black holes at their cores around which vast amounts of energy are being radiated. Indeed, so much light is emitted that the nucleus of a quasar is much brighter than the rest of the entire ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

4.8 / 5 (4) Jun 11, 2008
famous words: "we have an oven full" ahahahahah. not as good as "we have liftoff" or "we've got a live one" or....whatever. but i just don't think "we have an oven full" will last that long....and it' not everyday that a physorg targeted google ad, matches a physorg article with "convection kitchen ovens for your home, cook food 30% faster!" i love it. now the question remains, what do we baste with?
5 / 5 (2) Jun 12, 2008
as long as its marinated in alien bacteria, I don't care.

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.