Protective Film Moves Aside
Relatively warmer daytime temperatures on Mars have allowed the biobarrier -- a shiny, protective film -- to peel away a little more from the robotic arm of NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander.
This image shows the spacecraft's robotic arm in its stowed configuration, with the biobarrier unpeeled on landing day, or Sol (Martian day) 0, and the lander's first full day on Mars, Sol 1.
The "elbow" of the arm can be seen at the top center of the picture, and the biobarrier is the shiny film seen to the left of the arm.
The biobarrier is an extra precaution to protect Mars from contamination with any bacteria from Earth. While the whole spacecraft was decontaminated through cleaning, filters and heat, the robotic arm was given additional protection because it is the only spacecraft part that will directly touch the ice below the surface of Mars.
Before the arm was heated, it was sealed in the biobarrier, which is made of a trademarked film called Tedlar that holds up to baking like a turkey-basting bag. This ensures that any new bacterial spores that might have appeared during the final steps before launch and during the journey to Mars will not contact the robotic arm.
After Phoenix landed, springs were used to pop back the barrier, giving it room to deploy.
These images were taken on May 25, 2008 and May 26, 2008 by the spacecraft's Surface Stereo Imager.
The Phoenix Mission is led by the University of Arizona, Tucson, on behalf of NASA. Project management of the mission is by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. Spacecraft development is by Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver.
Photojournal Note: As planned, the Phoenix lander, which landed May 25, 2008 23:53 UTC, ended communications in November 2008, about six months after landing, when its solar panels ceased operating in the dark Martian winter.