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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    UA Lander begins ice analysis

    The UA-led Phoenix Lander is preparing to take its first sample of ice on Mars.

    Mission officials announced in a press release yesterday that ‘Phoenix’ had scraped up small piles of icy soil with its robotic arm that will now be picked up and delivered to the spacecraft’s instruments for analysis.

    ‘Phoenix’, which landed on Mars on May 25, was originally sent to analyze ice that scientists believed was just below the surface of Mars’ Polar Regions. Mission scientists confirmed on June 20 that they had found ice on the planet in a trench that the lander had been digging.

    The mission’s goal is to study the Martian ice to learn about the history of water on Mars and also to see if the planet’s soil could support life. Mission officials announced last week that the first experiments on Mars’ soil showed the soil did contain some of the basic nutrients needed for life and that it might hospitable to microbes living beneath the surface.

    However, ‘Phoenix’ is not equipped to detect life itself. Its instruments can only study the conditions needed for life.

    ‘Phoenix’ scraped at an ice layer buried underneath the soil in what mission scientists call the “”Snow White”” trench. The lander used a blade attached to its robotic arm to scrape up small piles of icy soil that each contain between two and four teaspoonfuls of material. The robotic arm will now scoop up that material and sprinkle it into the lander’s Thermal and Evolved Gas Analyzer, or TEGA. That instrument will use its ovens to “”bake”” the sample and “”sniff”” any gases it gives off (water vapor, for example), to determine its composition.

    Mission officials are expected to release their findings and any future plans for ‘Phoenix’ as they become available.

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