Phoenix Lander Finishes Soil Delivery to Onboard Labs

October 22, 2008
This image, taken by the Surface Stereo Imager (SSI) of NASA's Phoenix Lander, shows Martian soil piled on top of the spacecraft's deck and some of its instruments. Image: NASA

( -- NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander has finished scooping soil samples to deliver to its onboard laboratories, and is now preparing to analyze samples already obtained. Scientists are anxious to analyze the samples as the power Phoenix generates continues to drop. The amount of sunlight is waning on Mars' northern plains as late-summer turns to fall.

The spacecraft's robotic arm is digging into the lower portion of the "Upper Cupboard" and "Stone Soup" areas of the Phoenix worksite. Its Surface Stereoscopic Imager is taking photos of this trenching so scientists can better map out the geology of the Red Planet's ice table.

"We're basically trying to understand the depth and extent of the ice table to tie together how geology and climate control its formation," said Phoenix mission scientist Diana Blaney of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Later this week, Phoenix engineers and scientists will use the robotic arm to attempt to push a soil sample piled in a funnel on top of the lander's Wet Chemistry Laboratory into a cell for analysis. They will take images of soil captured in its Optical Microscope, as well as take digital-elevation models of a rock called "Sandman" with Phoenix's Robotic Arm Camera.

Phoenix has operated nearly five months on Mars since landing on May 25, 2008.

Provided by NASA

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2.2 / 5 (5) Oct 22, 2008
did the build a model of this lander and put it through actual trial on earth to see how these things actually functioned? I would say most likely they never did or things would be working far better.

do to nasa budget cuts were any engineers used on this project?
5 / 5 (3) Oct 23, 2008
did the build a model of this lander and put it through actual trial on earth to see how these things actually functioned? I would say most likely they never did or things would be working far better.

do to nasa budget cuts were any engineers used on this project?

The answer to both your questions is yes. So far they have exceeded their goals and it looks like they'll get to use all of the equipment they sent. At the beginning they had some problems with sticky soil but that's hard to know about until you actually get there. It took a while to figure out how to adapt to that but they did. The only other issue has been a short in the TEGA probably caused by the vibrations needed to deal with the sticky soil. So far there hasn't been another short and with some luck all 8 ovens will get used. The rest of the equipment has performed exceptionally well and the science return should be great. People are under the false impression that every time something doesn't work exactly as planned that it was due to some obvious flaw that should have been caught during testing. The reality is there are an infinite number of possible problems and a finite number of tests that you can run.
5 / 5 (3) Oct 23, 2008
The daily stream of information in the media creates an expectation of immediate reporting of results. There is also almost no tolerance to delays or required workarounds. For example the sticky soil could not be expected because the soil composition at this region was unknown so far. I look forward to read the first publications!

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