Laboratory tests aboard NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander have identified water in a soil sample. The lander's robotic arm delivered the sample Wednesday, July 30, to an instrument that identifies vapors produced by the heating of samples – the Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer, or TEGA.
With enticing results so far and the spacecraft in good shape, NASA also announced operational funding for the mission will extend through Sept. 30. The original prime mission of three months ends in late August. The mission extension adds five weeks to the 90 days of the prime mission.
"Phoenix is healthy and the projections for solar power look good, so we want to take full advantage of having this resource in one of the most interesting locations on Mars," said Michael Meyer, chief scientist for the Mars Exploration Program at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
The soil sample came from a trench approximately two inches deep. More information on Phoenix is at www.nasa.gov/phoenix .
These audio clips are excerpts from a news conference held Thursday, July 31, at the University of Arizona.
Cut 1 - MARS PHOENIX LANDER SCIENTIST WILLIAM BOYNTON, LEAD SCIENTIST FOR THE TEGA INSTRUMENT, WHICH CONFIRMED THE PRESENCE OF WATER IN THE MARTIAN SOIL SAMPLE, SHARES HIS EXCITEMENT.
Transcript: "Well, I'm very happy to announce that we've gotten an ice sample into the TEGA oven. When we first found this out yesterday, we were really pleased. There were champagne corks popping in the downlink room and we just had a great time of it. It's something we've been waiting quite a while for. Of course, we know the GRS on Mars Odyssey discovered this ice six years ago, but we've now finally touched it and tasted it. That's one thing that hasn't been done before and I'd like to say from my standpoint, it tastes very fine, I'm very glad to be in this position."
Cut 2 - MARS PHOENIX LANDER PROJECT SCIENTIST PETER SMITH OF THE UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA, TUCSON, DISCUSSES THE IMPLICATIONS OF CONFIRMING THE PRESENCE OF MARTIAN WATER.
Transcript: "Through this analysis we hope to also be able to answer questions that goes beyond just finding water ice, but is this a habitable zone on Mars? A habitable zone meaning that we have periodic liquid water, not today but over time, and we have the materials that are the basic ingredients for life forms. It'll be for future missions to find if anybody's home in this environment, but we'll be finding that this is a place that needs to be searched for life forms throughout the next two months of our approved mission."