NASA probe finds Martian soil to be clumpier than previously believed

June 10th, 2008 - 12:10 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, June 10 (ANI): NASAs Phoenix Mars Lander has found that Martian soil is clumpier than previously believed, after undergoing difficulties for getting soil samples from the surface of the Red Planet.

The soils physical properties are proving to be a challenge for getting a sample intended for Phoenixs Thermal and Evolved-Gas Anaylzer, or TEGA, to pass through a screen over a delivery opening.

TEGA is designed to bake and sniff samples to identify some key ingredients.

The analyzer vibrated the screen for 20 minutes on Sunday, but detected only a few particles getting through the screen, not enough to fill the tiny oven below.

Were a little surprised at how much this material is clumping together when we dig into it, said Doug Ming a Phoenix science team member from NASAs Johnson Space Center, Houston.

We are going to try vibrating it one more time, and if that doesnt work, it is likely we will use our new, revised delivery method on another thermal analyzer cell, said William Boynton of the University of Arizona, lead scientist for the instrument.

The arm delivered the first sample to TEGA on Friday by turning the scoop over to release its contents.

The revised delivery method, which Phoenix is testing for the first time today, will hold the scoop at an angle above the delivery target and sprinkle out a small amount of the sample by vibrating the scoop.

The plan includes a practice of the sprinkle technique, using a small amount of soil from the collected sample.

If that goes well, the Phoenix team assembled at the University of Arizona plans to sprinkle material from the same scoopful onto the microscope. (ANI)

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