Phoenix Digs Up First Martian Soil Sample
NASA's Phoenix Mars lander used its robotic arm to scoop up a sample of soil from the Martian surface. The goal is to analyze the sample to see if any of the frozen ice in the arctic region could have once been liquid and possibly been able to sustain some form of life in Mars' past. After exercising its arm during practice digs, mission controllers commanded Phoenix to take a sample to be delivered to its onboard Thermal and Evolved Gas Analyzer instrument. Phoenix took pictures of the sample so scientists could confirm they had a sufficient quantity for analysis. Sometime tonight controllers will send signals to Phoenix to deliver the sample to one of its on-board ovens to conduct a mass spectrometer analysis. The analysis is a four-day process won't necessarily occur over consecutive days. Phoenix contains other labs that will be used to analyze additional samples including microscopes and a wet chemistry lab.