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NASA Phoenix Media Telecon - June 6
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Images for June 6 Media Telecon

Image 1 - Martian Soil Ready for Robotic Laboratory Analysis
Image 2 - Soil Sample Poised at TEGA Door
Image 3 - Dodo and Baby Bear Trenches

Beginning of recorded material

Jane Platt: Good morning from Pasadena, California. I'm Jane Platt with the Media Relations Office at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. We'll be joined by the University of Arizona in Tucson. We also have two speakers today to give us the latest news on the Phoenix Mars Lander. And, then, we'll take questions from reporters. The visuals for today's briefing are online right now at That's

We've set that site up for your convenience, and a little later on, I'll give you additional Web sites that might come in handy. During this telecon, if you would like to ask a question, please press *1 to get into the queue. Going to start out by turning things over to Sara Hammond at the University of Arizona. Hello, Sara.

Sara Hammond: Good morning, Jane. Thanks e -- thank you, and thanks everyone for joining us. Uh, this morning, you're going to be hearing from Peter Smith, the Phoenix principal investigator from the University of Arizona and Matt Robinson. And, his last name is spelled, R-O-B-I-N-S-O-N. Matt is the Robotic Arm flight software lead from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. And, Peter, why don't you kick us off this morning?

Peter Smith: Thank you, Sara. Last night, we verified that the Robotic Arm has gathered a sample from a location on the surface we called Papa Bear. And, that sample has been placed, uh, just above the entry port of the TEGA instrument. And, we have taken a picture of the material inside of that, uh, scoop. This is really, uh, an important occasion for us, uh, to be poised to make a measurement for the first time of the polar soils that will tell us, uh, how much water is in the soil.

And, secondly, what the minerals are that make up the soil. And, not just any minerals, but the minerals that have been formed through the action of liquid water weathering the soil. And, this is, uh, an important process on the Earth. All of our soils that we're used to, uh, in our garden are-are changed dramatically by the action of liquid water.

And, uh, we are very curious whether the ice that we think is just under the surface here has, uh, been modified -- has been melted and modified the soil. When we look in the scoop --and there's an image up on the-the Web page. I hope everybody can see that. And, uh, there's a-a large clod on the right that had some very bright, whitish material. Now, this has been the cause of, uh, quite a bit of speculation among science team members.

And, I think some people think, uh, that it's too easy to get this material. It can't be hard ice. And, it's probably some sort of salt layer. Uh, salts, of course, would be very interesting because that's what's left behind as water evaporates, uh, out of a soil. An it's, uh, uh, a kind of a salt rim that we see in the -- some of the dry lake beds here in the s -- in the western United States.

So, that would be a-a very nice discovery. And, particularly if we knew exactly which salts and, uh, and just exactly what their position was in -- underneath the, uh, surface of the soil here. So, this, uh, looks like a really good sample for us. And, uh, uh, uh, other people, of course, think that white material might be ice. And, the TEGA instrument is particularly sensitive to any water getting into its, uh, oven.

Uh, as you might imagine, water is the first thing that's cooked out as you start to-to heat the oven. And, over the next, uh, uh, few days, uh, it may be as much as a week, the TEGA instrument will be analyzing this soil sample. And, we'll be getting reports, uh, uh, at periodic intervals through the week of how that's progressing.

So, this is an exciting time for us. The scoop's poised. We've-we've approved the commands to dump the scoop into the TEGA. And, that should be radiated up to the spacecraft, uh, a little later this afternoon. And, uh, tonight -- or actually, tomorrow morning, uh, very early in the morning, we'll get, uh, verification that TEGA has received its sample.

Uh, the next thing is, once TEGA knows its received its sample, it will be to start the analysis. And, that will take place over the next few days. But, uh, this is also an important time for us because it means the end of our characterization phase and the beginning of our nominal science mission.

That mean, uh, everything's working. Uh, we are capable of getting the samples we want to get and putting them into our instruments. And, we're ready to start the science portion of the mission. Uh, with us today is-is Matt Robinson, who's going to tell us a little more about the mechanics of actually getting, uh, a soil sample and, uh, bringing it up from the surface to the TEGA instrument. And, uh, Matt, would you like to tell us about that?

Matt Robinson: Uh, thank you, Peter. Uh, to the right of the three images that we see on the screen is an image of our, uh, dig site. Uh, there are two, uh, big locations there that you can see. To the left is what we call target Dodo. That's where we performed our two practice digs. To the right, you can see our actual sample acquired, uh, target, uh, Baby Bear.

Uh, uh, this is an image provided to us by the SSI, which is our stereo imager. Uh, using the SSI, uh, we can generate a -- what we call a digital elevation model. That's a 3-D map of the world that we can use to, uh, position the arm. We know that we have a fair amount of air in that digital elevation model. So, uh, we performed those -- we performed that touch tests and the two dig tests to help us improve upon that knowledge-knowledge of [a] world that we had.

Uh, once we performed the two, uh, practice tests, we could then adjust our targeting to perform the actual acquisition. We're going to acquire three samples over the next several days. One for TEGA, which is the one we already acquired. One for the optical microscope and one for the MECA wet chemistry cell.

Uh, those three samples all have to be within a fairly tight area. So, we wanted to position those sample acquires as close to each other as possible without any overlap, without, uh, any cross contamination. And, uh, as you can see, uh, we're very close to our test acquires without cross contamination. So, we're really pleased about that.

Once the sample was, uh, acquired, once it was picked up in our scoop, we then tilted the scoop back to push the sample from, from the front to-to the back of the scoop. And, using that, we, uh, one-one-once we were in that position, we used our Robotic Arm camera to take a picture of the contents of the scoop, which is what we see in the first picture.

Uh, we were aiming for, uh, one-third -- one-quarter to one-third of the scoop amount, uh, which is exactly what we got. We wanted a fair amount of sample because the TEGA door wasn't fully opened. We want to make sure that we can get enough sample in there. But we didn't want to bury TEGA with the sample for cross contamination issues. So, we're, uh, we're ecstatic that we got, uh, a quarter to a third scoopful, uh, roughly about the size of a cup.

Uh, we couldn't be more happy. Uh, the on -- uh, once we picked up the sample, we moved up in the air. And, we swung the Robotic Arm around in a counter clockwise fashion to position the scoop above, uh -- above, uh, TEGA cell number four. And, that's where it's resting right now. And, once we got there, we took additional images with the Robotic Arm camera and with the stereo imager to confirm that we were in position, ready to go, uh, for tonight's, uh, command upload.

Uh, uh, what I'll add is, uh, we couldn't be more thrilled. Uh, the analogy that I-I would like to give and, uh -- is that when you hear athletes prepar-preparing for a football season, they practice for one to two months. And, by the end of that one to two months, they're-they're just chomping at the bit. They're raring to, uh, to get out on that football field and, uh, and do it for real.

Well, our preseason has been about five years long. So, uh, you can imagine that, uh, uh, we're just raring to go, uh, to get that actual first real sample. Uh, and we couldn't be more thrilled.

Sara Hammond: Thanks, Matt. And, I'll just tell the callers, Matt is sitting here wearing his, uh, Notre Dame Fighting Irish t-shirt, So, we know where his heart is. And, again, just want to -- just want to clarify, the dig sit for today's, uh, activity was from Baby Bear. And, Jane, we'll send it back to you.

Jane Platt: Okay. Thanks, Sara. Thanks, Peter and Matt. We're going to open it up to questions from reporters. We're going to take our first question from the Los Angeles Times, John Johnson.

John Johnson: Thank you. Uh, the, uh, the picture that shows the white material in the scoop, if-if that were ice, given what we were talking about yesterday, wouldn't that have sublimated? Uh, so can we conclude that, that really isn't ice?

Peter Smith: Uh, I wouldn't conclude that for certain. It -- uh, a lot of people agree with you and think that the ice would have sublimated and also, that it was a little too easy to dig up because this was just taking a scoop. It wasn't scraping or kind of working the soil. And, we suspect the actual ice is going to be very hard and difficult to dig up chunks. So, uh, I-I tend to agree with you that it's probably not ice, but I can't say that for certain.

John Johnson: Okay. Thank you. And, just a quick follow-up if I could. Uh, when do you t -- uh, so, today, you'll get the commands up to actually put the sample in the oven. Uh, when will it actually, uh, begin testing? And, when will results come back?

Peter Smith: Well, first is to make sure it's actually properly in the oven and that the oven is sealed. Once we know that we have the, uh -- a full oven, that it's sealed. Then, we start what is really a-a four Sol process to do the analysis. And, it's not necessarily four-four contiguous Sols. There could be gaps in between. So, it's a little hard to tell you when we're done.

But we can certainly report after each step. The first step is to drive water out of the sample and, uh, find out what percentage of water in here. And, of course, if-if there's ice in there, that'll be part of our, uh, uh, measurement. So, uh, that should tell us pretty quickly if there's a lot of, uh, water ice in this soil.

John Johnson: Thank you.

Jane Platt: Okay. Thanks, John. And, actually, you just reminded me. The way you did it was just great. And, I wanted to remind other people asking questions, if you have a question and you -- then, you have a follow up, that's great. But if you [have] a sequence of questions, we just ask that you, uh, hold off until the second round of questions, So, that we can give everybody a chance. We're going to go right now to Jeremy Manier at the Chicago Tribune.

Jeremy Manier: Thanks a lot. Uh, Notre Dame '92. Go Irish. Uh, so, I'm -- my-my real question is one of housekeeping. Uh, are you guys planning on releasing stuff over the weekend if you get it? Or is there going to be another-another one of these on, uh, on Monday? What-what [for planning purposes here]?

Jane Platt: Uh, Jeremy, uh, this is Jane. I'm going to just jump in and tell you that we do have another, uh, full media telecon like this on Monday. But, uh, feel free to call our newsroom. Why-why don't you give our newsroom a call afterwards, and we'll give you the details on that. And, uh, did you have another question?

Jeremy Manier: I'm-I'm basically just asking, you know, if data is coming in over the weekend --

Jane Platt: Yeah. I'll send that over to Peter and Matt.

Peter Smith: Yes. Uh, we're working every single day. Uh, uh, some of our members take a day off when they need to, and we have replacements. So, we have a-a bit of a bench here. We [laughs] we rotate people in and out. So, we work every single day.

Jeremy Manier: Right. so -- but we-we don't necessarily. So, [laughs] So, my question is -- my question is really --

Peter Smith: Hey. Are you gloating? [laughter]

Sara Hammond: Well, this-this is Sara Hammond. One thing you can do it watch both the, uh, the Phoenix and the, uh, JPL Phoenix Web sites for updates. We-we may, if-if there is something, uh, newsworthy, may go ahead and post it to our Web site. So, I'd suggest you keep an eye on the Web.

Jeremy Manier: That answers it. Thanks very much.

Sara Hammond: Thank you.

Jane Platt: Okay. And, next, we're going to go to Andrea Thompson of

Andrea Thompson: Hi. I was curious, uh, so, will the, uh, sample taken from Mama Bear go, like, to the microscope and then Papa Bear go to MECA? Is that the plan?

Peter Smith: Uh, this is Peter. Uh, last night, there was a lot of discussion about where to get the next sample. And, the next sample is going to come from the Baby Bear position. And, I misspoke when I first said Papa Bear. I got my bears mixed up. Uh, the Baby Bear position. And, they will extend -- they'll go to the same depth and then extend the dig a little longer.

And, that will allow us to get pretty much exactly the same sample. And, we don't want very much for the optical microscope because we tend to be able to bury it. And-and it's hard to clear it off afterwards. So, uh, when I left last night, that was the plan. And, then, to get a-a sample for wet chemistry, we'd go to the next bear, which is -- Matt, do you know the next bear?

Matt Robinson: Mama Bear.

Peter Smith: Next to Baby Bear? Mama Bear?

Matt Robinson: Mm-hmmm.

Peter Smith: Okay. So, then, we'd go to Mama Bear, which is next to Baby Bear. And, uh, that would be our wet chemistry sample.

Andrea Thompson: Uh, oh, okay. A quick follow up. Uh, why-why do the same -- why do Baby Bear again for-for the microscope and then switch to Mama Bear for the wet chemistry?

Peter Smith: Answer that?

Matt Robinson: Well, uh, uh, this is Matt Robinson. Uh, TEGA gives us a certain type of analysis. But then, the optical microscope gives you a close-up look at what you analyzed before. [beeping] Uh, when we go back to Baby Bear, we're going to try to get more of the surface material right there at Baby Bear. Uh, if you take a look at that image, uh, there's sort of a [ball] wave at the end when the arm is, uh, scooping. And, we're going to try to acquire a little bit of sample from that [ball] wave.

Andrea Thompson: Okay.

Jane Platt: Okay. We're going to -- uh, there we go. Okay. T -- uh, did you get your -- did you hear your answer to your question?

Andrea Thompson: Yes, I did. Thanks.

Jane Platt: Okay. Sorry about that. Uh, I'm not sure where that came from. Okay. Next question is the Washington Post and David Brown. David Brown, Washington Post, are you on with us? Okay. Then, let's, uh -- let's give a try to Aaron Mackey at the Arizona Daily Star. We seem to be having some technical problems. Uh, Arizona folks, you're still there, right?

Peter Smith: Yeah. We're here.

Jane Platt: Okay. Uh, we have, uh, people who are-are wanting to ask questions. So, hopefully, that little disconnect noise wasn't them all going away, uh, accidentally. Uh, let me try Craig Covault at Aviation Week. Craig, are you there? [crosstalk] Uh, we're going to try to find out what's going on here. Uh --

Craig Covault: Hello. This is Covault.

Jane Platt: Okay. Excellent. Excellent. G-go right ahead, Craig.

Craig Covault: Okay. Question here for TEGA. Uh, yesterday, we were pretty much led to believe that TEGA will do an atmospheric sample, uh, drawing atmosphere in on another port before they really start processing the soil they'll be given tonight. Uh, can you kind of characterize the timing of when the atmosphere, uh, sample will be drawn in and the timing of its analysis.

Peter Smith: Yeah. This is Peter. Uh, a couple a days ago -- and excuse me if I don't remember which Sol number. But a couple of days ago, they received their first atmospheric sample. And, they're -- uh, Bill Boyton, who's the principal lead there has been analyzing that. And, uh, I think yesterday, they got a second atmospheric sample. And, then, tonight they were going to run a-a nighttime, uh, atmospheric sample.

So, there will be a total of three atmospheric samples, uh, analyzed or-or received -- maybe not analyzed -- before we actually do the, uh, analysis in the -- of the material just delivered to -- well, it'll be delivered today. So, uh, the reason for that is once you boil the water out of a soil sample, it adds a lot of water to our mass spectrometer. And, that -- it raises up the background.

And, we really wanted to have as much sensitivity as possible for measuring the atmosphere. So, we're making sure we can do that first with the cleanest mass spectrometer we'll ever have, which is, you know, the first measurement. So, uh, I think we're on track for acquiring the three atmospheric samples, uh, two in the daytime and one at night. And, uh, we should be ready to start analysis of the delivered soil, uh, once we've verified that it's in the oven.

Jane Platt: Okay. Our next call is David Brown from the Washington Post. David, are you with us?

David Brown: But that was my question. So, it's been answered. Thanks.

Jane Platt: Okay. Well, I'm glad you were there at least. Thank you. Uh, let's try Aaron Mackey of the Arizona Daily Star. Aaron --

Aaron Mackey: Hello.

Jane Platt: Aaron, are you there?

Aaron Mackey: Yes, can you hear me?

Jane Platt: Uh, yes. Uh, speak up just a bit, and you'll be good.

Aaron Mackey: Okay. Thanks. Uh, my question is for Peter. Peter, I was wondering if I could get a comment from you on how the TEGA team has responded to the various anomalies that have come up and how you're feeling about them now that the experiment is about to be utilized?

Peter Smith: [Boy], I hesitate to speak for the team. But, uh, uh, just from watching them, uh, perform, they-they have, uh, really been stressed a bit. And, they have been throughout the entire development of this instrument. It's a very, very, very complicated instrument, if not one of the more complicated instruments ever flown in space. And, uh, they have had one issue after another to face and to-to resolve.

And, so, uh, you know, at-at-at each step, there seems to be some little difficulty that's -- causes them to, uh, circle the wagons and-and work long hours and do testing in their laboratory and then our-our simulated Mars environment here. So, they, uh -- they deserve a break. And, I'd just love to see them get this first analysis just like clockwork, you know, and-and to get a wonderful result coming back. I-I think they deserve it for the incredible hard work they've put into this mission.

Aaron Mackey: Thank you.

Jane Platt: Okay. We're going to take a question now from Dave Perlman at the San Francisco Chronicle.

Dave Perlman: Yeah. Hi, folks. And, thanks again for setting this up so effectively. Uh, I just -- my question is simply this, can you give us some rough idea, Peter, as to when, uh, and how many days roughly you might have some results from what TEGA finds in these early soil samples and whether we'll be able to know whether that's ice or salt or whatever it is that we -- those little white specks in the soil are?

Peter Smith: Well, there's a couple of, uh, levels of answer to your question. One is, the white specks you see, we can't guarantee that those exact specks will go inside of the oven. All we can do is deliver to the entry screen. And, it's kind of sifted through that and then through a port and down into the oven. And, uh, we can't say that, you know, that-that particular grain has gone in there.

So, uh, we will be trying to, uh, get a pure sample of this white material as we dig down deeper throughout the mission. So, it may be another month before we really have a-a predominance of this whiter material in the oven. So, uh, we're hoping some portion of this goes in and we get a hint of what it is.

Uh, as far as when you'll know what we learn, uh, the first thing is to make sure the sample is delivered. And, we should have that fairly quickly. Uh, and then, we start a-a four-day process. And, like I said, it's not four days in a row. But there could be gaps in between as-as Matt and his crew are-are gathering samples for the other instruments and allowing them to do their work too.

So, I-I would guess, by the end of the week, we're in a pretty good position to tell you our-our first assessment of this soil. And, if we're lucky enough to get some of that white material in there, maybe we can figure out what that is too.

Dave Perlman: So, it's somewhere between Sol 12 and 15? Is that fair thinking?

Peter Smith: Gee, we're already at 12, aren't we? Yeah. It's --

Dave Perlman: Uh, yeah.

Peter Smith: More like 15 to 18, somewhere in there.

Dave Perlman: Okay.

Peter Smith: Towards the end of the week.

Dave Perlman: Great. Okay. Thank you very much.

Peter Smith: Hey, you're welcome.

Jane Platt: Okay. We're going to go to Peter Spotts of the Christian Science Monitor.

Peter Spotts: Uh, thank you very much. And, uh, my question was answered.

Jane Platt: Very good. Okay. Then, we'll move on to the Tucson Citizen and Alan Fischer.

Alan Fischer: [Pleased]. Matt, in terms of the scoop that has -- that will be delivered to the TEGA oven, how deep is that scoop? You said it was about a cup, but how deep did that go?

Matt Robinson: Uh, the scoop, uh, holds about 300cc's in-in total, uh, cubic centimeters, uh, [a quart -- a quart].

Peter Smith: A third of a quart.

Matt Robinson: A third of a quart. About a third of a quart.

Peter Spotts: Okay.

Matt Robinson: I'm trying to do my, uh -- I think mostly in metrics. So, I was -- thanks for Peter for, uh, giving me the conversion. [laughs]

Peter Spotts: Okay. And, Matt, how-how deep did-did the scoop go? It was a surface scoop today --

Matt Robinson: Oh, how deep did it go in the soil?

Peter Spotts: Yes, sir.

Matt Robinson: Uh, into the, uh, regular -- uh, I haven't actually looked at the, uh, data. Uh, we can use the Robotic Arm camera to generate a 3-D model. But just based on looking at-at a 2-D image, I would estimate two to three centimeters.

Peter Spotts: Okay. Okay. A-a question for Peter. Uh, there was some discussion today earlier that-that, uh, you were being very careful not to overload the instruments, be it MECA or TEGA for fear of, you know, putting too much of the soil material on them. Is there any kind of, uh, uh -- do you have any ability to shake or to blow or anything to get the excess soil off before you use another TEGA oven or another chemistry lab or anything like that in MECA?

Peter Smith: Uh, this is Peter. No, we-we really can't, uh, go in and shake the whole instrument. What we do is we-we have a little vibrator on each, uh, oven, uh -- I guess it -- you'd call it a hopper like it -- you put material through a sieve into a hopper. And, it's-it's, uh, vibrated a little bit to bring the material down through a hole into the oven.

But as far as cleaning off the rest of the instrument, there's no way for us to do that. And, that's why Matt's being particularly careful not to dump too much and, uh, potentially, you know, leave some in a place where it might get into the next oven port.

Peter Spotts: So-so, you're trying to avoid contaminating the following samples for each of the TEGA ovens and each of the MECA, uh, chemistry --

Peter Smith: Well, that's our desire. But it's a little -- g-gets mixed between, it's-it's not certainly disaster. I mean, this is all Martian material after all. And, we know so little about that [laughs] if there's just a slight amount of mixing, I don't see that as a big problem. And, as we go through the-the summer here, we're going to try and get as pure of samples of the layers that we identify as we can.

So, this first analysis is just material that we see on the surface. And, uh, as we dig down into this, uh, two or three centimeters that was discussed, you can see there it looks like there's even two layers that are being exhumed here. So, there is already some mixing. So, that's a --

Peter Spotts: [Thanks.]

Peter Smith: That's just, uh, our first look. And, then, we'll try and purify these samples as we go along.

Peter Spotts: Great. Thanks, gentlemen.

Jane Platt: All right. Thank you. And, our next question is Alicia Chang from Associated Press.

Alicia Chang: Hi. This question is for Peter. Uh, can you give us an idea about your strategy for next week, you know, with, uh, the analysis poised to have been with TEGA? Do-do you plan to do, you know, simultaneous digging at the same time? Can you just us s-some idea of what's going on next week?

Peter Smith: Well, our desire is to continue one of these trenches, uh, probably the one on the left called Dodo. And, uh, dig down to where we can't go any deeper anymore to get a sense of what our limits are. And, uh, so, far, we've had not much difficulty at all in digging these little tests -- test holes. And, at some point, we're going to hit a layer that we just cannot get through. And, we'd like to know at what depth we do that, so that we can plan our-our adventures for the rest of the summer.

Uh, and then, once we have all this information, we'll be selecting a place inside of our national parks system here, the Humpty Dumpty National Park. And-and perhaps, uh, trying to understand the-the difference between the center of a polygon and the trough. And-and we'll be examining those, uh, uh, different, uh, geologies too.

Alicia Chang: But for next week, do you expect samples to be delivered to MECA and-and the wet chemistry?

Peter Smith: Yeah. Yes. That's correct.

Alicia Chang: Okay.

Peter Smith: And, I-I can't tell you exactly what day. First, we have to make sure we got the first one in properly. And, then, I think the next is the optical microscope, and the third is the wet chemistry. And, uh, if we have a really good week, we could have all of those delivered by the end of the week.

But again, it takes several days for each one to be analyzed. And-and we're starting to get a backlog for the analysis portion. And, I know Matt wants to keep digging, so, we'll be trying to do everything. But we can't do it all at once. So, it'll take some time.

Alicia Chang: Okay. Thank you.

Jane Platt: Okay. Next, we're going to go to the Planetary Report and Sally [Rail]. Go ahead Sally.

Sally [Rail]: Hi. This is for either Peter or Matt. Uh, there was an accidental dump on the Visions of Mars DVD. And, I'm wondering, is the -- was there any chance that there was any spillage coming out, uh, over the TEGA instrument?

Matt Robinson: That, uh -- this is Matt Robinson. That little bit of, uh, material that you see on the DVD, uh, we believe occurred several Sols ago. Uh, be -- the very first thing that we did after doing our initial [arm] checkout was to go out and touch the surface and, uh, to press down as-as hard as the arm could safely, uh, into the surface, uh, which is that, uh, footprint that you probably have seen.

Uh, the arm has -- uh, uh, the scoop has a little chamber in the back which is -- which contains our [raft]. It's a little rotary tool that we're going to use to, uh, scrape up icy soil mixtures. And, uh, there's a little slot. There's a little opening there. And, what we believe is that during that touch test, a little-little bit of material got up into that opening. And, uh, when we over the deck to, uh, image, uh, TEGA or MECA, a little bit of that material spilled out. So, that's what we think that's from.

Sally [Rail]: Okay. But did that -- might that have happened, uh, with TEGA? In other words, might any material already be in TEGA?

Matt Robinson: Well, uh, that-that little opening is in the, uh -- well, we didn't open the drawers until after the arm was back out in the workspace. So, that wouldn't have happened. Uh, when we did the maneuver of, uh, maneuvering the scoop over the open TEGA port, uh, the scoop went from being kind of curled up to being close to horizontal. So, a little bit of -- during that action, a little bit of material may have spilled into the open drawer. But that's the sample that we actually want to deliver. So, I don't think that there's much of a chance of any unintentional sample making it in.

Sally [Rail]: Uh, no. I-I wasn't suggesting that. I was just wondering if it might already be in the oven.

Matt Robinson: It's-it's possible that a little bit has-has already made it in.

Sally [Rail]: Thank you.

Jane Platt: Okay. Thanks, Sally. Next question from Richard Kerr of Science Magazine.

Richard Kerr: Uh, thanks. This is for Peter Smith. Uh, looking in the, uh, holes that have been dug already, it looks like the -- as you said, uh, some nice layering. Uh, but the, uh, whole area has a distinct look about it as if, uh, there had been a strong wind blowing, uh, away from the camera. I take that to have been the [f-fuster] last. Do you have any feeling for how much if any of a surface layer of loose soil got blown away from the-the dig site?

Peter Smith: Well, Dick, it-it's hard to give an exact number here. But, uh, clearly, some soil was blown away. You can see just to the right of that, uh, uh, scoop mark on the r -- on the right, uh, just to the right and down a little below, you see a little pebble that's rolled across the surface and left a track behind it.

Richard Kerr: Yeah.

Peter Smith: So, uh, clearly, some material has been pushed out into the scene from thrusters. And, you see streaks that make that, uh, pretty obvious too. Now, what-what-what we've been looking at is how much soil's been pushed on top of the rocks. You-you can guess that maybe the rocks were not soil covered when we landed and that the soil you see on the rocks might have been blown out by the thrusters.

And, it's just a very light dusting on the rocks. So, it wasn't like deep, uh, thick layers of-of sediment were pushed out over our digging area. It's-it's just a little bit of dusting as far as we can tell.

Richard Kerr: Any possibility of a loss of, uh, soil from the digging site?

Peter Smith: Well, these things are possible. [laughs] Uh, it's-it's hard to know, isn't it? Uh, I-I suspect there isn't much material that's been lost. Uh, we really expected that, as-as we look under the-the Lander deck, we can see that that very hard surface material is about the same depth there as we're finding it up here on the -- in the digging area. So, I think we can't be very far away from, uh, you know, the original surface, maybe a few millimeters would be my guess.

Richard Kerr: Okay. Thanks, Peter.

Jane Platt: All right. The next question is Leo Enright of Irish Television.

Leo Enright: Thanks, Jane. Uh, a question for Peter. Uh, just trying to forget for a moment about white stuff, uh, this particular sample, obviously, is coming from the top layer and-and maybe, as you suggest, a second layer. But what would you ideally hope to see in this? Uh, is there anything that you've identified that you would hope to see that might answer, you know, some burning problem about, uh -- about Martian soil?

Are there volatiles that you'll be looking out for? Is there anything particularly that has been nagging at people for years that you might be able to answer with this first scoop?

Peter Smith: Well, that's a wonderful question. And-and frankly, Leo, anything we find is going to be a-a revelation to some scientists in the country. Uh, uh, th-there's so little known about the exact composition of these soils. Other instruments have measured the elements that make up the soil in-in other locations on Mars. But they've not really been able to tell you exactly what the mineral composition is, in other words, how the elements are combined.

So, we see a-a soil here that, uh, forms clods and suggests that it's cemented together with something. Uh, one thing that scientists have been asking for-for decades is, are there carbonates in the soil? And, are they providing this sort of binding that-that holds soil together? And, you see that certainly here in the desert soils around Arizona.

Uh, another suggestion is there's a lot of sulfates in the soil. And, carbonates and sulfates form through somewhat different processes. So, it tells you a little bit about the history. Uh, the other thing we might, uh, hope to find is clays, very fine clayish material that's, of course, a w-weathering product of basalt. And, so the igneous rocks that form from the volcanoes down to the south of us might have been transformed into-into clays. And, this would happen only through the action of liquid water.

And, in fact, liquid water might be bound to these clays. And, we would know exactly how much water was bound into the clays and-and, uh, how the soil [be]comes, uh, clumpy. Uh, a lot of things we could learn and really the underlying question is, did the ice melt?

Jane Platt: Okay. We're going to go now to New Scientist and Rachel Courtland.

Rachel Courtland: Hi. I was wondering if you could give, uh, us a sense of what TEGA's schedule is going to be over the next four days of analysis. Uh, Peter, you mentioned they're starting with water, but, uh, when are they going to get to testing for things like salt?

Peter Smith: Well, the-the TEGA instrument doesn't really do the salt analysis. So, uh, uh, I'm -- unless there's certain types of salts. Uh, the-the real salt analysis comes from our wet chemistry experiment where we're going to add water and dissolve the salts into the water and then measure the exact quantity that goes into solution.

In other words, the-the wet chemistry cell simulates the situation when the ice melts and the soil gets wet and what kind of soils would go into solution and wet soils -- uh, what kind of salts into solution in these wet soils. So, uh, I think, for a complete description of the salts, we need to wait for our wet chemistry experiment, which might be later this week. Uh, the-the TEGA experiment is more based on the minerals. And, that would be -- well, they -- like, uh, sulfates and carbonates, limestones and that sort of thing.

Rachel Courtland: And, then, just a quick follow up, uh, you mentioned that clump in the -- or there's that clump in the top of the shovel. Is that -- do you have a sense of how large that is? And, do you expect that it would fit through TEGA's sieve?

Matt Robinson: This is Matt Robinson. Uh, the scoop is approximately eight and a half centimeters wide. Uh, let me see if I can do my math. That's about, uh, four inches wide, three inches wide. Uh, so that clump, uh, you're looking at, uh, a couple centimeters, about an inch.

Jane Platt: Okay. We're going to move back Arizona now, Anne Ryman at the Arizona Republic.

Anne Ryman: Hi. Good morning. Uh, I had a question just to clarify on the amount of the sample that, uh, TEGA's getting. You-you mentioned the first sample is about, uh, the equivalent of, say, a measuring cup. Uh, and I wondering, with the microscope and the wet chemistry lab, if there's a way you could, uh, explain, uh, uh, the -- how large the measurements, uh, might be there in terms that, you know, people could relate to?

Peter Smith: Well, the, uh -- this is Peter. The, uh -- the optical microscope, we're using sort of a-a saltshaker se -- technique to provide the sample. And, -- in other words, we-we tilt the scoop above the entry port, and then we vibrate it a little bit. And, we just have a sprinkling of-of the tiny little grains down to the microscope. And, this is So, we don't overload it and put such a large quantity of dirt that we only see the first sample afterwards. In other words, it gets buried under the sample.

Uh, for the wet chemistry, it's a little different. We-we will put a-a larger, uh, quantity into their entry port. And, some of it would spill around the edges. So, we want to have enough material so that, uh, we can guide it right into their entry port. And, they only get about, uh, one cc of material, which I'm not sure how to convert that into English units. [laughs] But that's, uh -- that's a-a cube about half an inch on the side. But --

Anne Ryman: Thanks. And, then, if I could just ask-ask a quick follow up. Could you, uh, refresh my memory on how tiny the-these ovens are? A-again, if-if there's a way to relate it in terms that people could understand easily.

Peter Smith: It's about the diameter of a pencil lead and, uh, maybe an inch long.

Anne Ryman: The diameter of a pencil lead?

Peter Smith: A pencil lead, yes.

Anne Ryman: Okay. Thank you.

Peter Smith: It's just a very small oven. But it's-it's powerful in it's, uh, ability to analyze those soils. We don't get a lot of soil. But we get a very accurate analysis of what goes in.

Anne Ryman: All right. Thank you.

Jane Platt: Going to take a question now from Spaceflight Magazine and Ken Kremer. Ken.

Ken Kremer: Uh, thank you. Question for, uh, Peter and Matt. For-for Matt, I'm wondering, the kind of imaging you'll be taking as you are dumping the sample into the TEGA oven and perhaps when it gets through? And, for Peter, uh, you're taking -- you're doing the analysis over four days, I'm wondering, are you getting data back during the various stages of the analysis? Or do you have to wait till the -- all the analysis is done to get any data back?

Matt Robinson: Well, I'll start off first. This is Matt Robinson. Uh, we will, uh, deliver the sample first. Uh, and to do that, the scoop will rotate about 90 degrees, uh, to dump the sample. Once that occurs, the arm will move up and use the Robotic Arm camera to image the TEGA screen. And, uh, once we do that, then the arm will move out of the way. And, the stereo imager will take pictures. [crosstalk] And, then -- and then -- and then also, we will -- we'll look into the scoop to verify that the, uh, scoop is empty.

Peter Smith: Can you remind us the second part of this?

Ken Kremer: Yes. Peter, the second part is, you're-you're doing the analysis over four days.

Peter Smith: Four days. Yes.

Ken Kremer: Stages. That may not be --

Peter Smith: After each day, we get the data back from the spacecraft, we can do a quick look, make sure the instrument's functioning properly. And, if there's some anomaly or some unexpected result, we can, uh, take a little longer delay to go to the next step. So, if everything's going just as the way it's done in our laboratory, we can move rather quickly through this process.

But if we see something strange and unusual, we want to stop and have a chance to, uh, uh, perhaps change our-our-our code for the upl -- for the upcoming activity. And, uh, we only have the eight ovens. So, we want to make sure we do the best analysis we can on each one and not just rush through.

Ken Kremer: Okay. Now, when, uh, when will you take the -- you-you can take MECA samples and optical microscope samples then while the TEGA is running and then run these simultaneously. Is that correct?

Peter Smith: Well, uh, uh, this is Peter. I [was] saying we-we don't necessarily do these analyses one, two, three, four days in a row. We have, uh, a kind of a-a day in between to try and understand what we've learned so far before we kick off the next part of the analysis. And, so in those days between, we can certainly be gathering other samples and delivering them to the other instruments. Or we could be digging deeper to try and find, uh, the, you know, the hard layer that we can't get through and see what our limits are here.

Jane Platt: Okay. The next question is going to come from [Kyoshi Endo of Nikai].

[Kyoshi Endo]: Uh, hi. This is [Kyoshi Endo] with Japanese newspaper, [Nikai]. Uh, part of my question was already answered. But it -- but from the image of this-this scoop, uh, the soil seems to be very well aggregated and, uh, somewhat sticking on the wall. You talked about the possibility of carbonate. But can we al-also say that, uh, the, uh -- there could be some sort of moist, uh, just underneath, uh, the surface? [Is this probably] the result of some sort of moisture by not necessarily water but some sort of liquid just-just underneath the, uh, the surface?

Peter Smith: Well, this is Peter. Uh, that would be a wonderful thing if we found a liquid water. But, uh, there's other ways that material can stick onto the scoop, in particularly fine grain clays are very sticky and-and tend to attract to things, even electronic forces can hold it to the side walls. But I-I-I think we can't claim we've seen any kind of liquid here.

Uh, the TEGA instrument will tell us if there's a considerable amount of liquid in this soil. so, I'm-I'm going to be a little more patient and wait a couple of days and see. The-the-the big clods, of course, will not go through the screen. The screen entry to TEGA is one-millimeter holes. So, only the finest materials are going to get through.

[Kyoshi Endo]: Okay. Thank you.

Jane Platt: All right. And, uh, we're going to go into what I like to refer to as the bonus round, uh, follow-up questions and, of course, if you haven't asked on at all, you're welcome to press *1 as well. And, we'll put you in the queue. Uh, we're going to take a question right now from David Brown at the Washington Post. David.

David Brown: Thank you. Uh, I'm wondering if, uh, you know, absent some big surprises, if in fact most of the samples that go into TEGA, uh, will not vaporize, that they're -- I don't know -- silicates or-or they're compounds that are just too big and long and heavy to, uh, become -- enter, you know, the gas phase at the temperatures you reach. Or in fact, is the, uh -- is the temperature so high that-that pretty much everything will burn off?

Peter Smith: No. You're a -- you're absolutely right. This is Peter. Uh, the-there are refractory materials that will not be changed in any way, shape or form through heating up to 1000 degrees C, uh, for-for instance, quartz would not be melted at those temperatures. Uh, so, I think what we're looking for is materials that do vaporize or decompose at these temperatures.

And, those are the ones formed through the action of liquid water. They're-they're less, uh, refractory, if you like, and, uh, are going to give us the signatures we're looking for. So, we're not analyzing igneous materials directly. We're looking at the altered m-minerals.

David Brown: Right.

Peter Smith: Altered by water.

David Brown: Great. Thanks.

Jane Platt: Next, we have Craig Covault of Aviation Week.

Craig Covault: Thanks. But my question's been asked.

Jane Platt: Okay. Well, then, we'll move on to Sally [Rail] of the Planetary Report.

Sally [Rail]: Hi. I just, uh, have a personal question. How are you all handling Mars time? And, what -- how-how much are you getting -- how many hours of sleep are you averaging?

Peter Smith: Well, I-I'm going to let Matt answer that because he's actually on Mars time. I'm trying to run two schedules in the day, So, I'm not a good example.

Matt Robinson: Uh, well, uh, as you know, uh, a Martian day is about 24 and a half hours. So, uh, roughly speaking, our day shifts by about half an hour a day. Although, that's not always the case depending on what passes we're looking at. Uh, you just have to -- it helps to, uh, take a few measures like making -- blacking out your windows, uh, in your room, uh, uh, just eating well and trying to get lots of exercise.

Peter Smith: What-what's your schedule today, Matt?

Matt Robinson: What's my schedule today? Uh, I'm finishing my-my shift. Uh, I have a few, uh, reports to finish out. Then, I'll go home.

Peter Smith: What time?

Matt Robinson: Uh, about a half an hour and get something -- get some dinner. Uh, lunch for the rest of the -- rest of, uh, Tucson, it's dinner for me. Uh, I'll try to get some exercise in and, uh, go to bed and come back here tonight at about-about midnight. Uh, it-it-it's -- it takes adjustment. Uh, I'll-I'll freely admit to that.

Sally [Rail]: And, so the team seems to be adjusting well to Mars time because I know it's brutal.

Matt Robinson: Well, y -- it is. Uh, I think, right now, we're running on adrenaline. Uh, we're just so thrilled that, uh, we touched down and that the Robotic Arm, uh, speaking from that perspective, uh, is performing so beautifully. So, uh, we're all really excited.

Peter Smith: Yeah. Sally, this is Peter. We-we really are pushing hard through our characterization phase. And, once we get to our nominal science phase, we have breaks built in for every person, so that they can -- uh, they'll be on shift and on, uh -- with an operational role four days and then off for two days. And, so we're hoping that will keep people from burning out after the adrenaline wears off.

Sally [Rail]: Great. Thank you.

Jane Platt: Okay. Thanks. And, I'm going to do a last call. Again, if you do have a question, press *1. Uh, right now, we're going to go back to-to [Kyoshi Endo of Nikai].

[Kyoshi Endo]: Hi. This is [Kyoshi Endo of Nikai] newspaper once again. Uh, I'd just like to precisely know what the -- when you have the evaporated water in the oven, you have [essentially captured] that, uh, water, I guess. And, uh, what is the minimum amount that, uh, you can -- you can measure? Uh, you said it's very sensitive, but, uh, what is the minimum that you can figure out?

Peter Smith: Hmm. Well, that's a good question. I-I'm not sure the minimum. Uh, we expect, from all the models we've done in the past and what we've seen even in the equatorial region of Mars, that there's at least two percent of the upper soils are-are bound water. That's not liquid water but water that's attached to, say, clay or some of these, uh, uh, minerals that are in there. For instance, a sulfate can have water attached to it.

So, we're expecting probably at the lowest amount we'd-we'd expect to find would be one or two percent. And, we are very capable of measure that. In fact, that's a lot of water for us. Uh, just what the minimum might be, I don't know because we don't expect to see less than that.

[Kyoshi Endo]: Oh, okay. Thanks.

Jane Platt: All right. The next question is Ken Kremer again from Spaceflight Magazine.

Ken Kremer: Hi. Thank you. Peter, uh, I have a question. Uh, the second TEGA sample you take, would that be from Dodo as you go deeper? Or would you take it elsewhere and, uh -- or from elsewhere? And, uh, what, uh, sample door would that be, the second sample [be]?

Peter Smith: Yeah. The -- gee. You know it's -- I find it's easy to ask questions that other people can't answer. And, this is one I'm not sure. The-the science team has been debating this. And-and, uh, we-we have set aside these, what we call, national parks where we really want to do the-the bulk of the interaction with our surface, our digging surface. So, I would guess we'd move away pretty quickly from this area, which was chosen mainly because it's kind of, uh, at the edge of digging space.

And, uh, once we get results from our three instruments with this soil here, we'd start to move into the -- into the area we've set aside for doing most of our work. I don't know which oven is next. Is it number three, Matt? Do you know?

Matt Robinson: I don't know that we've really [even] identified, uh, you know, an oven.

Peter Smith: [Yeah.]

Matt Robinson: Yeah.

Peter Smith: I-I don't know how. I can't answer that. We don't have a member of the TEGA team here with us today.

Ken Kremer: Oh. So-so the reason to go deeper then, if you're not going to put it in the ovens, would be then to try to determine how hard this is? Or what would be your goal to go [deeper?]

Peter Smith: Well, our-our goal is to find our boundaries. We -- what-what are we working with here? We have limited resources. So, if-if the really hard ice table is down a foot deep, I'd like to know that right away [laughs] and know that we need to dig, uh, considerable depth to get to the -- to the ice table. If it's, uh -- if we're seeing it now, and that's really an impenetrable layer that we see in the bottom of the Dodo trench, and there is, what looks like, uh, very bright, perhaps icy, material.

Then, that governs the way we're going to be interacting with the surface. So, we really kind of just want to know what the-the top and bottom of our digging area is going to be.

Ken Kremer: Well, if it was ice though, would that drive you more to taking a sample for the -- for-for the ovens from that, if you were sure it was ice?

Peter Smith: Well, the -- you could argue that. Yes. Uh, uh, the team hasn't made that decision. Uh, we would expect that the ice is in the-the same depth all across this digging area. And, so we wouldn't necessarily just go to the first place we see it. But you could. I mean, I-I don't know. Uh, this is a team decision, and it hasn't really been, uh, agreed upon yet.

Jane Platt: Okay. We're going to take the next call from Emily Lakdawalla at the Planetary Society.

Emily Lakdawalla: Hi. I was just browsing the images from Sol 11, and I noticed that the, uh, cable on that, uh, uh, connects the [tell tale to its mast] seems to -- it looks like it's fraying a little bit. Can you comment on that?

Peter Smith: Well, I noticed that too, Emily. Uh, [laughs] it-it took a-a very violent shaking during the-the interaction through entry, descent and landing. And, uh, we-we had trouble with this [tell tale], believe it or not, in the vibration test because it's on the end of the-the mast. And, the mast is a little like a fishing rod.

So, when it gets vibrated, it-it takes on an ext -- incredible velocity, and-and it does put some stress onto that-that [tell tale]. And, so maybe some of the little fibers that hold it have broken. Uh, it sure looks that way.

Emily Lakdawalla: Thanks.

Jane Platt: Okay. That wraps things up for today. I want to thank Peter and Matt and also, Sara from the University of Arizona. This telecon will be archived, and you can catch it in a couple of ways. Within an hour or two, it will be posted on a few Web sites, including this one, the For the next seven days, it will be on a recording line at 1-888-566-0591. For international callers, that's 203-369-3071.

And, it will also, be available later on iTunes under the JPL audio and video podcast channel. As I mentioned earlier, our next media telecon is scheduled for Monday, June 9th, 11:00 a.m. Pacific and Arizona time. And, in addition to the Web site we've been using today, there's a lot more information and images from Phoenix at That's, of course, the U of A Web site.

If you have any more questions, you can, uh, feel free to call us here at JPL Media Relations, 818-354-5011. So, thanks everybody, and have a great weekend.

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