Phoenix Mars Lander Delivers Soil Sample to Microscope

Jun 12, 2008
Phoenix Mars Lander Delivers Soil Sample to Microscope
The Robotic Arm on Phoenix has just delivered the first sample of dug-up soil to the spacecraft's microscope station in this image taken during the mission's Sol 17 (June 12), or 17th Martian day after landing. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/Texas A&M

NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander sprinkled a spoonful of Martian soil Wednesday onto the sample wheel of the spacecraft's robotic microscope station, images received early Thursday confirmed.

"It looks like a light dusting and that's just what we wanted. The Robotic Arm team did a great job," said Michael Hecht of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. He is the lead scientist for the Microscopy, Electrochemistry and Conductivity Analyzer (MECA) instrument on Phoenix.

The delivery of scooped-up soil for inspection by the lander's Optical Microscope, a component of MECA, marks the second success in consecutive days for getting samples delivered to laboratory instruments on Phoenix's deck. Some soil from an earlier scoopful reached a tiny oven in another instrument on Tuesday, as confirmed in data received early Wednesday.

That instrument is the Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer, or TEGA. Commands being sent to Phoenix today include instructions to close TEGA oven number 4 and begin analyzing the sample inside, a process that will take several days.

The soil now in the microscope station came from the same scoopful that was used for a practice run of the sprinkle delivery technique on Monday. That scoopful has the informal name "Mama Bear." The sample delivered to TEGA oven 4 has the informal name "Baby Bear." Both came from a trench now called "Goldilocks" but earlier referred to as Baby Bear, on the northwest side of the lander.

The Phoenix team assembled at the University of Arizona plans to command the Robotic Arm in the next day or two to dig deeper into the Goldilocks trench and an adjacent trench called "Dodo" to determine the depth to an underlying layer of hard material that may be ice.

Source: NASA

Explore further: The view from up there, down here

Related Stories

Recommended for you

The view from up there, down here

2 hours ago

When many people saw the first stunning photos of the fragile blue marble of Earth from space, it changed their outlook of humanity. It was a singular moment in time when people around the world were watching ...

The weird ways fire behaves in space (w/ Video)

4 hours ago

Light a match on earth and you can expect the flame to shoot up in a tapering bulb. But light that match in space and you might not even recognize the small, blue orb at the tip. That's because fire behaves ...

Russia loses comms with ISS cargo spacecraft (Update)

6 hours ago

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station were left with a long wait Tuesday to get their latest food and fuel deliveries after an unmanned Russian supply ship lost communications following takeoff.

Liquid crystal bubble OASIS in space

18 hours ago

No matter how beautiful or crystal clear the bubbling waters of an oasis may be, they seldom lead to technology breakthroughs. Yet, NASA's OASIS investigation's bubbles may lead to an ocean of new improvements ...

User comments : 0

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.