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Successful first test of high speed Moon penetrator

...high speed penetrators that could one day be used to breach the surface of planets, moons and asteroids have successfully passed their first test in the UK...

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Hubble brings galaxies out of coma ...NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has captured the magnificent starry population of the Coma Cluster galaxies, one of the densest known galaxy stockpiles in the Universe.....

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Amateurs help radio astronomers glimpse astrophysical jet

...the first astrophysical radio jet has been detected from an outbursting white dwarf nova, suggesting that all compact accreting binary systems are capable of creating radio jets...

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Video archive

STS-120 day 2 highlights

Flight Day 2 of Discovery's mission focused on heat shield inspections. This movie shows the day's highlights.


STS-120 day 1 highlights

The highlights from shuttle Discovery's launch day are packaged into this movie.


STS-118: Highlights

The STS-118 crew, including Barbara Morgan, narrates its mission highlights film and answers questions in this post-flight presentation.

 Full presentation
 Mission film

STS-120: Rollout to pad

Space shuttle Discovery rolls out of the Vehicle Assembly Building and travels to launch pad 39A for its STS-120 mission.


Dawn leaves Earth

NASA's Dawn space probe launches aboard a Delta 2-Heavy rocket from Cape Canaveral to explore two worlds in the asteroid belt.

 Full coverage

Dawn: Launch preview

These briefings preview the launch and science objectives of NASA's Dawn asteroid orbiter.

 Launch | Science

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More video

An oven full of sand

Posted: June 12, 2008

After several attempts, Phoenix has finally succeeded in filling one of its ovens with Martian soil, ready to sniff out and assess its ingredients, such as water.

"We have an oven full," says Phoenix co-investigator Bill Boynton of the University of Arizona. "It took 10 seconds to fill the oven. The ground moved."

Soil from the right trench, "Baby Bear", was successfully delivered to the TEGA instrument after several day's attempts. The left hand trench, "Dodo", was dug as a test. Each trench is about nine centimetres wide. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/Texas A&M University.


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 the Thermal and Evolved Gas Analyser instrument (TEGA) last Friday, 12 days after landing. It took a nail biting several days of trying to shake the soil through the screen covers, which are designed to prevent larger bits of soil from clogging the narrow port to each oven, so that only fine particles fill the oven cavity. Each TEGA chute also has a whirligig mechanism that vibrates the screen to help shake small particles through.

Phoenix scientists speculated that the oven might have suddenly 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," says 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 today include sprinkling Martian soil on the delivery port for the spacecraft's Optical Microscope and taking additional portions of a high-resolution colour panorama of the lander's surroundings.

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