Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Phoenix Lander Digs And Analyzes Soil As Darkness Gathers

Date:
October 11, 2008
Source:
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Summary:
As fall approaches Mars' northern plains, NASA's Phoenix Lander is busy digging into the Red Planet's soil and scooping it into its onboard science laboratories for analysis.

This false-color image shows color variations of the trench, informally named "La Mancha," and reveals the ice layer beneath the soil surface.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/Texas A&M University

As fall approaches Mars' northern plains, NASA's Phoenix Lander is busy digging into the Red Planet's soil and scooping it into its onboard science laboratories for analysis.

Over the past two weeks, Phoenix's nearly 2.4-meter-long (8 feet) arm moved a rock, nicknamed "Headless," about 0.4 meters (16 inches), and snapped an image of the rock with its camera. Then, the robotic arm scraped the soil underneath the rock and delivered a few teaspoonfuls of soil onto the lander's optical and atomic-force microscopes. These microscopes are part of Phoenix's Microscopy, Electrochemistry and Conductivity Analyzer (MECA).

Scientists are conducting preliminary analysis of this soil, nicknamed "Galloping Hessian." The soil piqued their interest because it may contain a high concentration of salts, said Diana Blaney, a scientist on the Phoenix mission with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

As water evaporates in arctic and arid environments on Earth, it leaves behind salt, which can be found under or around rocks, Blaney said. "That's why we wanted to look under 'Headless,' to see if there's a higher concentration of salts there."

More digging is underway. Phoenix scientists want to analyze a hard, icy layer beneath the Martian soil surface, and excavating to that icy layer underneath a rock might give scientists clues about processes affecting the ice.

So the robotic arm has dug into a trench called "La Mancha," in part to see how deep the Martian ice table is. The Phoenix team also plans to dig a trench laterally across some of the existing trenches in hopes of revealing a cross section, or profile, of the soil's icy layer.

"We'd like to see how the ice table varies around the workspace with the different topography and varying surface characteristics such as different rocks and soils," said Phoenix co-investigator Mike Mellon of the University of Colorado, Boulder. "We hope to learn more about how the ice depth is controlled by physical processes, and by looking at how the ice depth varies, we can pin down how it got there."

Over the weekend, on the 128th Martian day, or sol, Phoenix engineers successfully directed the robotic arm to dig in a trench called "Snow White" in the eastern portion of the lander's digging area. The robotic arm then delivered the material to an oven screen on Phoenix's Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer.

The Phoenix team will try to shake the oven screen so the soil can break into smaller lumps and fall through for analysis.

The Phoenix lander, originally planned for a three-month mission on Mars, is now in its fifth month. As fall approaches, the lander's weather instruments detect diffuse clouds above northern Mars, and temperatures are getting colder as the daylight hours wane.

Consequently, Phoenix faces an increasing drop in solar energy as the sun falls below the Martian horizon. Mission engineers and scientists expect this power decline to curtail activities in the coming weeks. As darkness deepens, Phoenix will primarily become a weather station and will likely cease all activity by the end of the year.

The Phoenix mission is led by Principal Investigator Peter Smith at the University of Arizona. Project management is the responsibility of JPL, with development partnership by Lockheed Martin in Denver. International contributions come from the Canadian Space Agency; the University of Neuchatel, Switzerland; the universities of Copenhagen and Aarhus, Denmark; the Max Planck Institute, Germany; and the Finnish Meteorological Institute.

More information about Phoenix is at: http://www.nasa.gov/phoenix .


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "Phoenix Lander Digs And Analyzes Soil As Darkness Gathers." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 October 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081008230817.htm>.
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. (2008, October 11). Phoenix Lander Digs And Analyzes Soil As Darkness Gathers. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081008230817.htm
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "Phoenix Lander Digs And Analyzes Soil As Darkness Gathers." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081008230817.htm (accessed September 19, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Friday, September 19, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

MIT BioSuit A New Take On Traditional Spacesuits

MIT BioSuit A New Take On Traditional Spacesuits

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) The MIT BioSuit could be an alternative to big, bulky traditional spacesuits, but the concept needs some work. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Boeing, SpaceX to Send Astronauts to Space Station

Boeing, SpaceX to Send Astronauts to Space Station

AFP (Sep. 17, 2014) NASA selected Boeing and SpaceX on Tuesday to build America's next spacecraft to carry astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) by 2017, opening the way to a new chapter in human spaceflight. Duration: 01:13 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
East Coast Treated To Rare Meteor Sighting

East Coast Treated To Rare Meteor Sighting

Newsy (Sep. 16, 2014) Numerous residents along the East Coast reported seeing a bright meteor flash through the sky Sunday night. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Space Race Pits Bezos Vs Musk

Space Race Pits Bezos Vs Musk

Reuters - Business Video Online (Sep. 16, 2014) Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' startup will team up with Boeing and Lockheed to develop rocket engines as Elon Musk races to have his rockets certified. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins