Phoenix Scrapes 'Almost Perfect' Icy Soil for Analysis

Jul 01, 2008
Phoenix Scrapes 'Almost Perfect' Icy Soil for Analysis
This image shows the trench informally called "Snow White 5." Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/Max Planck Institute

NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander enlarged the "Snow White" trench and scraped up little piles of icy soil on Saturday, June 28, the 33rd Martian day, or sol, of the mission. Scientists say that the scrapings are ideal for the lander's analytical instruments.

The robotic arm on Phoenix used the blade on its scoop to make 50 scrapes in the icy layer buried under subsurface soil. The robotic arm then heaped the scrapings into a few 10- to 20-cubic centimeter piles, or piles each containing between two and four teaspoonfuls. Scraping created a grid about two millimeters deep.

The scientists saw the scrapings in Surface Stereo Imager images on Sunday, June 29, agreed they had "almost perfect samples of the interface of ice and soil," and commanded the robotic arm to pick up some scrapings for instrument analysis.

The scoop will sprinkle the fairly fine-grained material first onto the Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer (TEGA). The instrument has tiny ovens to bake and sniff the soil to assess its volatile ingredients, such as water. It can determine the melting point of ice.

Phoenix's overall goals are to: dig to water frozen under subsurface soil, touch, examine, vaporize and sniff the soil and ice to discover the history of water on Mars, determine if the Martian arctic soil could support life, and study Martian weather from a polar perspective.

Source: NASA

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User comments : 8

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zevkirsh
2.9 / 5 (7) Jul 01, 2008
it's just dirt.
SgntZim
3.4 / 5 (5) Jul 01, 2008
Yeah but it's interesting dirt.
PieRSquare
3.7 / 5 (3) Jul 01, 2008
Worst snow-cone ever! But the science will be tasty...
Mercury_01
3.3 / 5 (4) Jul 01, 2008
Big news everybody, it appears that the soil on mars could have supported life!! Call channel one news and discovery kids! Call mr wizard!

God forbid they just tell us what we know already, then they wouldnt get to play with their legos for the next 6 missions, which are already funded.
yuri
4.8 / 5 (4) Jul 01, 2008
lets just hope that ice doesn't melt before these crumbs finally fit into a tiny hole of the oven lol
menkaur
2 / 5 (5) Jul 01, 2008
robot picked up an interesting dirt in a month being on mars... how INEFFICIENT.... why don't they use some more ADVANCED AI in the robotic missions so we don't have to read about little things like that and go on to the REAL stuff right a way
Arikin
5 / 5 (3) Jul 02, 2008
Let us send menkaur there to fill test tubes. :-)

But really, they only have one chance at the pure water mix test. So they probably want a good sample.
OckhamsRazor
4.4 / 5 (7) Jul 02, 2008
Why is almost everyone poo-pooing when any bit of soil from another world should be cause for interest? I don't care if it contains nothing, which would be remarkable anyway. We have a working robot on another planet digging and analysing the dirt there. Getting onto the "real stuff" still requires going through the menial stuff. Not all science advances in massive leaps.