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NASA's Phoenix Retesting Release of Martian Soil

04.06.2008
Engineers and scientists operating NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander decided early today to repeat a practice of releasing Martian soil from the scoop on the lander's Robotic Arm.

When the lander collected and released its first scoopful of soil on Sunday, some of the sample stuck to the scoop. The team told Phoenix this morning to lift another surface sample and release it, with more extensive imaging of the steps in the process.

"We are proceeding cautiously," said Phoenix principal investigator Peter Smith of The University of Arizona. "Before we begin delivering samples to the instruments on the deck, we want a good understanding of how the soil behaves."

An image of one of the analytical instruments received Monday night underscored the need for precise release of samples. It shows the two spring-loaded doors on one of the tiny ovens of the Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer after a command for them to open in preparation for receiving the instrument's first soil sample. One opened fully, the other partially. Phoenix engineers said the opening is wide enough to receive a sample, and that it might still open further with daily temperature changes.

The Phoenix Mission is led by The University of Arizona, on behalf of NASA.
Project management of the mission is by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. Spacecraft development is by Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver.

For more information about Phoenix, visit http://phoenix.lpl.arizona.edu and http://www.nasa.gov/phoenix.

MEDIA CONTACTS:
Sara Hammond, UA (520-626-1974; shammond@lpl.arizona.edu) Guy Webster, JPL (818-354-5011; guy.webster@jpl.nasa.gov) Dwayne Brown, NASA Headquarters (202-358-1726; dwayne.c.brown@nasa.gov)

Lori Stiles | University of Arizona
Further information:
http://www.arizona.edu

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