And this is the resulting divot::
i-a8a865e8ca82020aad53afe123537e22-SoilSample.jpg

NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander’s Surface Stereo Imager took this image on Sol 14 (June 8, 2008), the 14th Martian day after landing. It shows two trenches dug by Phoenix’s Robotic Arm.

Soil from the right trench, informally called “Baby Bear,” was delivered to Phoenix’s Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer, or TEGA, on Sol 12 (June 6). The following several sols included repeated attempts to shake the screen over TEGA’s oven number 4 to get fine soil particles through the screen and into the oven for analysis.

The trench on the left is informally called “Dodo” and was dug as a test.

Each of the trenches is about 9 centimeters (3 inches) wide. This view is presented in approximately true color by combining separate exposures taken through different filters of the 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.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/Texas A&M University

More details in the following press release:

TUCSON, Ariz. – NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander has filled its first oven with Martian soil.

“We have an oven full,” Phoenix co-investigator Bill Boynton of the University of Arizona, Tucson, said today. “It took 10 seconds to fill the oven. The ground moved.”

Boynton leads the Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer instrument, or TEGA, for Phoenix.
The instrument has eight separate tiny ovens to bake and sniff the soil to assess its volatile ingredients, such as water.

The lander’s Robotic Arm delivered a partial scoopful of clumpy soil from a trench informally called “Baby Bear” to the number 4 oven on TEGA last Friday, June 6, which was 12 days after landing.

A screen covers each of TEGA’s eight ovens. The screen is to prevent larger bits of soil from clogging the narrow port to each oven so that fine particles fill the oven cavity, which is no wider than a pencil lead. Each TEGA chute also has a whirligig mechanism that vibrates the screen to help shake small particles through.

Only a few particles got through when the screen on oven number 4 was vibrated on June 6, 8 and 9.

Boynton said that the oven might have filled because of the cumulative effects of all the vibrating, or because of changes in the soil’s cohesiveness as it sat for days on the top of the screen.

“There’s something very unusual about this soil, from a place on Mars we’ve never been before,” said Phoenix Principal Investigator Peter Smith of the University of Arizona. “We’re interested in learning what sort of chemical and mineral activity has caused the particles to clump and stick together.”

Plans prepared by the Phoenix team for the lander’s activities on Thursday, June 12 include sprinkling Martian soil on the delivery port for the spacecraft’s Optical Microscope and taking additional portions of a high-resolution color panorama of the lander’s surroundings.

The Phoenix mission is led by Smith 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.

NASA

Comments

  1. #1 EngineerType
    June 12, 2008

    What if the particles are sticking together (or to the screen) because they are magnetized? Is that even possible?

  2. #2 travc
    June 13, 2008

    I hope the soil isn’t sticky from an ice crystal matrix, it would suck to have to wait for it to sublimate away before analyzing the soil… since that is kind of the sort of stuff we want to analyze.

    Anyway, thanks for the updates. Please do post when we get some TEGA data back ;)

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