Phoenix Makes First Trench in Science Preserve
NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander began digging in an area called "Wonderland"
early Tuesday, taking its first scoop of soil from a polygonal surface feature
within the "national park" region that mission scientists have been preserving
The lander's Robotic Arm created the new test trench called "Snow White" on June
17, the 22nd Martian day, or sol, after the Phoenix spacecraft landed on May
25. Newly planned science activities will resume no earlier than Sol 24 as engineers look into how the spacecraft is handling larger than expected amounts of data.
During Tuesday’s dig, the arm didn't reach the hard white material, possibly ice, that Phoenix exposed previously in the first trench it dug into the Martian soil.
That's just what scientists both expected and wanted. The Snow White
trench is near the center of a relatively flat hummock, or polygon, named
"Cheshire Cat," where scientists predict there will be more soil layers or
thicker soil above possible white material.
The Snow White trench is about two centimeters deep (about three-quarters of an
inch) and 30 centimeters (about a foot) long. The Phoenix team plans at least
one more day of digging deeper into the Snow White trench.
They will study soil structure in the Snow White trench to decide at what depths
they will collect samples from a future trench planned for the center of the
Meanwhile, the Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer (TEGA) instrument continues its
ongoing experiment in the first of its eight ovens.
TEGA has eight separate tiny ovens to bake and sniff the soil to look for
volatile ingredients, such as water. The baking is performed at three different
The Phoenix mission is led by Peter Smith of the University of Arizona with
project management at JPL and development partnership at Lockheed Martin,
located in Denver. International contributions come from the Canadian Space
Agency; the University of Neuchatel, Switzerland; the universities of
Copenhagen and Aarhus, Denmark; Max Planck Institute, Germany; and the Finnish
Meteorological Institute. For more about
Phoenix, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/phoenix
Media contacts: Guy Webster 818-354-6278
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
Dwayne Brown 202-358-1726
NASA Headquarters, Washington
Sara Hammond 520-626-1974
University of Arizona, Tucson