NASA logo and link JPL logo
JPL Home EARTH Stars and Galaxies Science and Technology
Caltech Logo
Email News RSS Podcast Video
Mission to Mars' north poloar region Phoenix Mars Lander
Mission overview

new trench, dubbed 'Snow White'
  › Larger image
NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander began excavating a new trench, dubbed "Snow White," in a patch of Martian soil near the center of a polygonal surface feature, nicknamed "Cheshire Cat." Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/Texas A&M University/NASA Ames
 Latest press images
Raw images
Latest videos
JPL Phoenix site
NASA Phoenix site
Univ. of Arizona Phoenix site

› Print this article
› Join e-mail list
Phoenix Makes First Trench in Science Preserve
June 17, 2008

NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander began digging in an area called "Wonderland" early Tuesday, taking its first scoop of soil from a polygonal surface feature within the "national park" region that mission scientists have been preserving for science.

The lander's Robotic Arm created the new test trench called "Snow White" on June 17, the 22nd Martian day, or sol, after the Phoenix spacecraft landed on May 25. Newly planned science activities will resume no earlier than Sol 24 as engineers look into how the spacecraft is handling larger than expected amounts of data.

During Tuesday's dig, the arm didn't reach the hard white material, possibly ice, that Phoenix exposed previously in the first trench it dug into the Martian soil.

That's just what scientists both expected and wanted. The Snow White trench is near the center of a relatively flat hummock, or polygon, named "Cheshire Cat," where scientists predict there will be more soil layers or thicker soil above possible white material.

The Snow White trench is about two centimeters deep (about three-quarters of an inch) and 30 centimeters (about a foot) long. The Phoenix team plans at least one more day of digging deeper into the Snow White trench.

They will study soil structure in the Snow White trench to decide at what depths they will collect samples from a future trench planned for the center of the polygon.

Meanwhile, the Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer (TEGA) instrument continues its ongoing experiment in the first of its eight ovens.

TEGA has eight separate tiny ovens to bake and sniff the soil to look for volatile ingredients, such as water. The baking is performed at three different temperature ranges.

The Phoenix mission is led by Peter Smith of the University of Arizona with project management at JPL and development partnership at Lockheed Martin, located in 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: and

Media contacts: Guy Webster 818-354-6278
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Dwayne Brown 202-358-1726
NASA Headquarters, Washington

Sara Hammond 520-626-1974
University of Arizona, Tucson

› News releases archives




Related Links
› NASA Phoenix site

› University of Arizona Phoenix site

› JPL on Facebook and Twitter

› Landing Press Kit (3Mb - PDF)

› Launch Press Kit (6.5Mb - PDF)

› Mission Fact Sheet (244Kb - PDF)

› NASA Mars Exploration site

› NASA/JPL Landing Blog

Other Missions at Mars
› Mars Exploration Rovers

› JPL's Rover News and Image

› Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter

› Mars Odyssey

› Mars Express

   usa gov PRIVACY     |    FAQ     |     FEEDBACK Site Manager: Susan Watanabe
Webmasters: Tony Greicius, Martin Perez