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Robotic Arm Unwrapped
05.26.08
 
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This image, taken shortly after NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander touched down on the surface of Mars, shows the spacecraft's robotic arm in its stowed configuration, with its biobarrier successfully unpeeled. The "elbow" of the arm can be seen at the top center of the picture, and the biobarrier is the shiny film seen to the left of the arm.

The biobarrier is an extra precautionary measure for protecting Mars from contamination with any bacteria from Earth. While the whole spacecraft was decontaminated through cleaning, filters and heat, the robotic arm was given additional protection because it is the only spacecraft part that will directly touch the ice below the surface of Mars.

Before the arm was heated, it was sealed in the biobarrier, which is made of a trademarked film called Tedlar that holds up to baking like a turkey-basting bag. This ensures that any new bacterial spores that might have appeared during the final steps before launch and during the journey to Mars will not contact the robotic arm.

After Phoenix landed, springs were used to pop back the barrier, giving it room to deploy.

The base of the lander's Meteorological Station can be seen in this picture on the upper left. Because only the base of the station is showing, this image tells engineers that the instrument deployed successfully.

The image was taken on landing day, May 25, 2008, by the spacecraft's Surface Stereo Imager.

The Phoenix Mission is led by the University of Arizona, Tucson, 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.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

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