NASA's Phoenix Retesting Release of Martian Soil

Engineers and space station scientists operating NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander decided early today to repeat a practice test of releasing Martian soil from the scoop on the lander's Robotic Arm.

When the arm collected and released its first scoopful of soil on Sunday, some of the sample stuck to the scoop. The team told Space Technology Phoenix this morning to lift another surface sample and release it, with more extensive imaging of the steps in the process.

"We are proceeding cautiously," said space shuttle Phoenix Principal Investigator Peter Smith of the University of Arizona. "Before we begin delivering samples to the instruments on the deck, we want a good understanding of how the soil behaves."

An image of one of the analytical instruments received Monday night, June 2, underscored the need for precise release of samples. It shows the two spring-loaded doors on one of the tiny ovens of the Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer. On Monday, engineers sent commands for the doors to open in preparation for receiving the instrument's first soil sample. Images returned that evening showed one door opened fully, the other partially. Our solar system Phoenix engineers said the opening is wide enough to receive a sample, and that the door might open farther on its own, particularly once the sun warms the spring holding the door.Read more...>

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