Tue, Jun 03, 2008
Practice Scraping Shows Possible Evidence Of Ice, Salt
One week after landing on far-northern Mars, on Sunday NASA
Phoenix spacecraft lifted its first scoop of Martian soil as a test
of the lander's Robotic Arm.
The practice scoop was emptied onto a designated dump area on
the ground after the Robotic Arm Camera photographed the soil
inside the scoop. The Phoenix team plans to have the arm deliver
its next scoopful, later this week, to an instrument that heats and
sniffs the sample to identify ingredients.
A glint of bright material appears in the scooped up soil and in
the hole from which it came. "That bright material might be ice or
salt. We're eager to do testing of the next three surface samples
collected nearby to learn more about it," said Ray Arvidson of
Washington University in St. Louis, Phoenix co-investigator for the
The camera on the arm examined the lander's first scoop of
Martian soil. "The camera has its own red, green and blue lights,
and we combine separate images taken with different illumination to
create color images," said the University of Arizona's Pat Woida,
senior engineer on the Phoenix team.
The Phoenix mission is led by Peter Smith at the University of
Arizona with project management by NASA's Jet Propulsion
Laboratory, Pasadena, CA and development partnership at Lockheed
Martin, Denver. International contributions come from the Canadian
Space Agency; the University of Neuchatel, Switzerland; the
universities of Copenhagen and Aarhus, Denmark; Max Planck
Institute, Germany; and the Finnish Meteorological Institute.
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