Posted: October 22, 2008
NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander has finished scooping soil samples to deliver to its onboard laboratories, and is now preparing to analyse samples already obtained before the Sun completely sets on the mission.
Last week, the lander’s robotic arm successfully delivered soil into oven six of the Thermal and Evolved Gas Analyser (TEGA), a bonus for the mission since the mission goal of filling and examining soil in at least three of the ovens has already been completed.
This image shows four of the eight cells in the TEGA instrument. TEGA's ovens, located underneath the cells, heat soil samples so the released gases can be analysed. Left to the right the cells are numbered 7, 6, 5 and 4, with the most recent delivery to cell 6 Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/Max Planck Institute.
The project scientists are keen to analyse the samples as the power Phoenix generates continues to drop as autumn on Mars gradually sets in. "My entire team is working very hard to make use of the power we have before it disappears," says William Boynton, the lead scientist for TEGA. "Every time we fill an oven, we potentially learn more about Mars' geochemistry." TEGA's tiny ovens heat the soil to as high as 1,000 degrees Celsius in order to sniff out the gases derived from heating the soil.
Meanwhile, the spacecraft's robotic arm is digging into the lower portion of the Upper Cupboard and Stone Soup regions of the Phoenix workspace and the Surface Stereoscopic Imager is documenting trenching so scientists can better map out the geology of the ice table already found a few centimetres below the surface. "We're basically trying to understand the depth and extent of the ice table to tie together how geology and climate control its formation," says Phoenix mission scientist Diana Blaney of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Later this week, mission engineers will instruct Phoenix to use its 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. Images of the soil already captured will be taken using the Optical Microscope. In addition, digital-elevation models of a rock called Sandman are scheduled with Phoenix's Robotic Arm Camera.
Mission scientists will continue to research and analyse the soil samples in the coming months, long after Phoenix stops operating on the surface.
Oct 08 Phoenix digs into darkness read more
Sep 30 Phoenix sees falling snow read more
Sep 29 Phoenix peeks under a rock read more
Sep 12 Dust devils pay visit to Phoenix read more
Sep 05 Phoenix's vapour quandary read more
Aug 26 Phoenix digs into extended mission... read more
Aug 06 Martian salts analysed for habitability... read more
Aug 01 Phoenix tastes water on Mars read more
Jul 29 Sticky situation for Phoenix read more
Jul 22 Phoenix in 24-hour monitoring assignment read more
Jul 17 Phoenix rasps frozen layer... read more
Jul 11 First success with Phoenix soil probe... read more
Jul 10 Phoenix struggling with icy payload read more
Jul 03 Next Phoenix bake could be last read more
Jun 30 Phoenix soil could support life read more
Jun 23 Frozen water confirmed on Mars read more
Jun 19 Bright chunks must have been ice read more
Jun 17 First results from Phoenix bakery read more
Jun 12 An oven full of sand read more
Jun 10 Clumpy Martian soil challenges Phoenix read more
Jun 06 Closest view ever of Mars sand read more
Jun 03 Phoenix scoops up Martian soil read more
Jun 02 Phoenix sees possible ice read more
May 30 Phoenix flexes robotic arm read more
May 28 HiRISE captures Phoenix descent read more
May 26 Spectacular new colour view of Mars read more
May 23 Phoenix prepares for Mars landing read more