Mars Lander Scrapes Icy Soil in Wonderland
NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander catches a glimpse of the "Snow White" trenches in the Martian arctic in this image released on June 20, 2008.
Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona/Texas A&M University

NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander has scraped to icy soil in the "Wonderland" area on, NASA announced on Friday.


Phoenix scientists are now assured they have a complete soil-layer profile in Wonderland's "Snow White" extended trench. Reaching the icy layer confirms that surface soil, subsurface soil and icy soil can be sampled at a single trench.


By rasping to icy soil, the robotic arm on Phoenix proved it could flatten the layer where soil meets ice, exposing the icy flat surface below the soil. Scientists can now proceed with plans to scoop and scrape samples into Phoenix's various analytical instruments. Scientists will test samples to determine if some ice in the soil may have been liquid in the past during warmer climate cycles.


Observations from the lander’s Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer made last week indicated that the soil had at some time in the past interacted with water.


Phoenix has also photographed white chunks in trenches that mission scientists think must be ice.