Updated 5:40 p.m. ET
NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander has confirmed the existence of water ice on Mars.
"I'm very happy to announce that we've gotten an
ice sample," said the
"We have water," Boynton added. "We've
seen evidence for this water ice before in observations by the Mars Odyssey
orbiter and in disappearing chunks observed by
The news that ice had fallen into TEGA came on Thursday morning, surprising scientists who had run into problems delivering a sample of the icy dirt because of its unexpected stickiness.
"There were champagne corks popping in the downlink room," Boynton said. "It's something we've been waiting a long time for."
When scientists tried to deliver samples of icy dirt scraped up from the Snow White trench and deliver it to TEGA last week, the sample stuck to the scoop of Phoenix's robotic arm, with only a few tiny pieces of ice falling onto the oven screen. Scientists decided to deliver a second sample of dry dirt to the oven while they revised their sample delivery method.
The dry sample was scooped up and delivery to the oven was confirmed yesterday. When scientists began heating up the sample, the signal confirmed that "we got a little bit of ice mixed in with this sample," Boynton said.
Scientists could detect the water ice in the sample because when water begins to melt, more heat is needed to raise the temperature of the sample.
Boynton said he initially dubbed the sample "Wicked Witch" after the witch in "Hansel in Gretel" who met her end when she was shoved into an oven. While donning a green costume witch hat, to the laughter of those in the briefing room, he said perhaps he should have named it for the witch in "The Wizard of Oz," famous for her dying line, "I'm melting?"
"Essentially it's an ice-dominated
terrain," said Mark Lemmon of
The completion of the panorama was one of the
Michael Meyer, chief scientist with Mars Exploration
Program at NASA Headquarters in
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- Video: NASA's Phoenix: Rising to the Red Planet
- New Images: Phoenix on Mars!