Archive by category | NASA Phoenix Landing

Phoenix landing: Ice at last!

Phoenix landing: Ice at last!

From the editors: Mars Phoenix scientists have finally confirmed finding ice at the landing site (watch the chunks sublimating in the lower left of the trench in the animated image below). Read our full story here. And for more on a new study about how volcanism and ice may have shaped Mars’s northern regions, try this news story.  Read more

Phoenix landing: Chunk o’ ice

Phoenix landing: Chunk o' ice

The Phoenix mission scientists just won’t call it ice. It’s getting almost hilarious the way they assiduously avoid the term. On a conference call today, Ray Arvidson, the robotic arm lead scientist, talked about some of the features of a deep 5 to 7 centimeter trench. The trench combines “Goldilocks” and “Dodo” — two shallower test trenches. You can see the ledge of exposed “light-toned” (as they call it) material in the upper part of the trench. You can also see a little tiny nugget of something — don’t say that word — sitting just to the left of center  … Read more

Phoenix landing: Shake ‘n’ bake

Phoenix landing: Shake 'n' bake

After five days of shaking, TEGA will finally get around to some baking. Last Friday, the robotic arm dropped some soil onto the screen door of one of the ovens for TEGA, Phoenix’s main chemical analysis instrument. But the soil was apparently too clumpy. Mission scientists sent commands to vibrate the instrument, which resulted in some material getting through the screen (see the animated gif here). But somehow it wasn’t getting into the oven. Today, something finally gave — was it the weather? was it the vibrating? — and the oven is now full. Now they’ve got to worry about contamination.  Read more

Phoenix landing: Organic contamination

Phoenix landing: Organic contamination

Is Phoenix, and one of its premier instruments, TEGA, covered in too much microscopic crud from Earth to detect Martian organics? That’s the question I try to explore in my latest story on the main Nature news site. TEGA, pictured on the right, is about to begin baking soil samples and sniffing the gases that come off it in the hopes of detecting organic molecules. But whether the TEGA team can say anything definitive will depend on how free the instrument is of Earth organics. Yesterday, Phoenix had its scoop poised at the edge of one of TEGA’s eight oven  … Read more

Phoenix landing: Stranger in a strange land

Phoenix landing: Stranger in a strange land

Also in this week’s Nature, we did something unusual: a “”http://www.nature.com/news/2008/080604/full/453712a.html">snapshot feature." Some of our editors were so taken by the photo of Phoenix descending in front of Heimdall crater that they carved out two full pages in our features section, usually reserved for longer, analytical stories. If there’s ever a time to pilfer the copy of Nature from the departmental common room, then this week is it. Heck, I’d pay money for a nice glossy poster. The folks at Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter should seriously start selling prints of this — maybe they can pay for the cost overruns on  … Read more

Phoenix landing: Perplexed by polygons

Phoenix landing: Perplexed by polygons

I have a new story up on the main Nature News site about the mystery of the polygons on Mars, which are analogous to the polygons found in the Arctic and Antarctic on Earth. Mike Mellon thought he had them all figured out — he had a model that perfectly explained the five meter polygons he was seeing from Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s HiRise camera (pictured here). Then Phoenix landed and they were too small. Strangely, Mellon also sees the faint imprint of really large polygons, maybe more than 20 meters across. One idea is that each polygon size reflects the  … Read more

Phoenix landing: Bittersweet history

Phoenix landing: Bittersweet history

No, that isn’t Phoenix PI Peter Smith. And that’s not the Surface Stereo Imager. That’s a decade old picture of David Paige, PI for the doomed Mars Polar Lander, with the previous incarnation of the SSI. On one of the recent Phoenix conference calls, a journalist asked — had anyone talked to Paige? Did he watch the landing? Good questions. I called him up — he’s a professor at the University of California at Los Angeles — and had a quick chat. Turns out he did watch the Phoenix landing from JPL, with his 5-year-old son. First, the background. Mars  … Read more

Phoenix landing: Here’s the scoop

Phoenix landing: Here's the scoop

Phoenix’s robotic arm has scooped up its first mouthful of Martian soil, mission scientists announced today. In a test “dig and dump” area to the west of the “National Parks” that are off limits for now, the robotic arm easily slid into the soil. The color picture here, taken with the LEDs of the robotic arm camera, gives a good sense of the crumbly, crusty overburden that the team will be digging through to get to the ice that they’re pretty sure lurks just below.  Read more