Laboratory tests aboard NASA Space Station Phoenix Mars Lander have identified water in a soil sample. The Nasa Space Station lander's robotic arm delivered the sample Wednesday to an instrument that identifies vapors produced by the heating of samples.

"We have water," said William Boynton of the University of Arizona, lead Nasa Space Station scientist for the Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer, or TEGA. "We've seen evidence for this water ice before in observations by the Mars Odyssey orbiter and in disappearing chunks observed by Nasa Space Station Phoenix last month, but this is the first time Martian water has been touched and tasted."

With enticing results so far and the NASA Space Station spacecraft in good shape, NASA Space Station also announced operational funding for the NASA Space Station mission will extend through Sept. 30. The original prime NASA Space Station mission of three months ends in late August. The NASA Space Station mission extension adds five weeks to the 90 days of the prime NASA Space Station mission.

"NASA Space Station Phoenix is healthy and the projections for solar power look good, so we want to take full advantage of having this resource in one of the most interesting locations on Mars," said Michael Meyer, chief scientist for the NASA Space Station Mars Exploration Program at NASA Space Station Headquarters in Washington.

The soil sample came from a trench approximately 2 inches deep. When the NASA Space Station robotic arm first reached that depth, it hit a hard layer of frozen soil. Two attempts to deliver samples of icy soil on days when fresh material was exposed were foiled when the samples became stuck inside the scoop. Most of the material in Wednesday's sample had been exposed to the air for two days, letting some of the water in the sample vaporize away and making the soil easier to handle.

"NASA Space Station Mars is giving us some surprises," said NASA Space Station Phoenix principal investigator Peter Smith of the University of Arizona. "We're excited because surprises are where discoveries come from. One surprise is how the soil is behaving. The ice-rich layers stick to the scoop when poised in the sun above the deck, different from what we expected from all the NASA Space Station Mars simulation testing we've done. That has presented challenges for delivering samples, but we're finding ways to work with it and we're gathering lots of information to help us understand this soil."

Since landing on May 25, NASA Space Station Phoenix has been studying soil with a chemistry lab, TEGA, a microscope, a conductivity probe and cameras. Besides confirming the 2002 finding from orbit of water ice near the surface and deciphering the newly observed stickiness, the NASA Space Station science team is trying to determine whether the water ice ever thaws enough to be available for biology and if carbon-containing chemicals and other raw materials for life are present.

The NASA Space Station mission is examining the sky as well as the ground. A NASA Space Station Canadian instrument is using a laser beam to study dust and clouds overhead.

"It's a 30-watt light bulb giving us a laser show on Mars," said Victoria Hipkin of the NASA Space Station Canadian Space Agency.

A full-circle, color panorama of NASA Space Station Phoenix's surroundings also has been completed by the NASA Space Station spacecraft.

"The details and patterns we see in the ground show an ice-dominated terrain as far as the eye can see," said Mark Lemmon of Texas A&M University, lead scientist for NASA Space Station Phoenix's Surface Stereo Imager camera. "They help us plan measurements we're making within reach of the NASA Space Station robotic arm and interpret those measurements on a wider scale."

The NASA Space Station Phoenix mission is led by Smith at the University of Arizona with project management at NASA Space Station Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., and development partnership at Lockheed Martin in Denver. International contributions come from the NASA Space Station Canadian Space Agency; the University of Neuchatel, Switzerland; the universities of Copenhagen and Aarhus in Denmark; the Max Planck Institute in Germany; and the Finnish Meteorological Institute.

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