In The Field

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 in the trench.

So the team is going to watch what happens to these two features over time. The chunk, being small and exposed, would be expected to sublime and disappear over time. And the ledge, if it was an extension of the cold, thick ice table below, might actually be expected to accumulate frost. We’ll see.

Bill Boyton, lede for the TEGA instrument, said the baking is going well — they’ve performed two step-wise bakes, up to 175 degrees Celsius, without detecting anything other than carbon dioxide. In the next few days, he’ll amp that oven up to 1000 degrees Celsius. That’s when things will really start cooking.


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