Phoenix's scoop after it had been inverted and a motor in the scoop had been run to jar the sample of icy dirt loose. The image, taken on July 28, shows that much of the sample remained stuck inside the scoop.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/Max Planck Institute
The icy dirt mixture that NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander is trying to sample is surprisingly sticky, mission scientists learned this weekend, as they tried to deliver a clump to one of the craft's instruments.
The difficulties of delivering the sticky dirt, thought to be a mixture of water ice and dust and other unknown minerals similar to terrestrial soil, but without microbes, to one of the ovens in Phoenix's Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer (TEGA) are forcing scientists to delay those plans and dig for another sample of dry dirt instead. The lander analyzed its first dry dirt sample about a month ago.
"While we continue with
determining the best way to get an icy sample, we intend to proceed with
analyzing dry samples that we already know how to deliver," said
"It has really been a science experiment just learning how to interact with the icy soil on Mars ? how it reacts with the scoop, its stickiness, whether it's better to have it in the shade or sunlight," Smith said.
Images returned early Monday showed a small amount of soil reached the screened opening of the target TEGA oven, but other data from the spacecraft indicated that not enough of the dirt had been funneled into the oven to begin an analysis.
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