Phoenix Gets Bonus Soil Sample


October 17, 2008 -- The Mars Phoenix Lander's robotic arm successfully delivered soil into oven six of the lander’s thermal and evolved-gas analyzer (TEGA) on Monday, Oct. 13, or Martian day (sol) 137 of the mission.

The delivery to oven six is a “bonus round” for Phoenix, as the mission goal requirement of filling and analyzing soil in at least three of the ovens has already been satisfied. Six of eight ovens have been used to date.

TEGA’s tiny ovens heat the soil to as high as 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit (1,000 degrees Celsius). The lab’s “nose,” or mass spectrometer, then “smells” and analyzes the gases derived from heating the soil. Mission scientists will continue to research and analyze the soil samples in the coming months, long after Phoenix stops operating on the surface.

Now in Martian late-summer, Phoenix is gradually getting less power as the sun drops below the horizon.

“My entire team is working very hard to make use of the power we have before it disappears,” said William Boynton of the University of Arizona, Tucson, the lead scientist for TEGA. “Every time we fill an oven, we potentially learn more about Mars’ geochemistry.”

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