NASA's Phoenix Retesting Release of Martian Soil

Martian soil near Phoenix lander Listen to June 3 Media Telecon
A sequence of two images was acquired by NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander's Surface Stereo Imager on sols 6 and 7--the sixth and seventh days of the mission (May 31 and June 1, 2008).
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June 03, 2008

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Engineers and 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 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 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. 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.

The Phoenix mission is led by Smith at the University of Arizona with project management by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., 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. For more about Phoenix, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/phoenix and http://phoenix.lpl.arizona.edu.

Media contacts: Guy Webster 818-354-5011
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
guy.webster@jpl.nasa.gov