In The Field

Phoenix landing: Holy cow

ice2.jpg Phoenix PI Peter Smith can finally rest easy: There really is ice underneath the lander.

A followup to images from two days ago has found a smooth bright tabular substance that, to my wide eyes, can’t be anything other than solid H2O. You can see, at the top of the photo, the thruster nozzles that blew the soil away to reveal this ice.

“The consensus opinion is that we have found ice very close beneath the surface at our landing site,” Smith said today in a conference call. If you look at the image, you can see shadows from the lander legs that change angle right at the edge of ice, an indication that the ice sits below “four to six” inches of soil, according to Smith.

Today the lander is moving the robotic arm camera closer to the first patch of ice it found two days ago — an area that has been dubbed “Holy Cow”. Not a name that’s part of the Humpty Dumpty story, merely the first words out of Smith’s mouth. The robotic arm camera should be able to use its LED lights and get some color photos of this ice — good fodder for discussion in the coming days.

If you’re wondering why the University of Arizona’s Phoenix web page is down, Smith said that the Web site was hacked. “There was an amateurish attempt to delete some of our material,” he said, adding that it should be back up this afternoon.

Image: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona


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