Feeds

Phoenix chokes on 'clumpy' Martian soil

Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer glitch

Intelligent flash storage arrays

NASA's Phoenix Mars lander has hit a glitch in its first attempt to sample Martian soil - the Red Planet's surface may have proved too "clumpy" for one oven in the Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer (TEGA).

Phoenix recently scooped up a cup-sized sample of material for the "high-temperature furnace and mass spectrometer" TEGA, which features screened openings so that only particles less than 1mm can pass into the device's miniature ovens. Once inside, they're slowly heated up during a week's analysis to determine the soil's water and mineral content.

That's the plan, but an infrared beam which is supposed to confirm particles have entered the first oven hasn't as yet detected any, and according to NASA, scientists "suspect the soil may be clumped together too tightly".

Accordingly, engineers are mulling just how to encourage some of the clogged sample into the oven using "mechanical shakers". Spokeswoman Sara Hammond said they "may send instructions to vibrate the compartment after they inspect the problem for a day or two".

If NASA fails to coax the reluctant Martian soil into the clogged TEGA oven it may well go unused, Hammond said. However, since the TEGA has a total of eight ovens, that would not necessarily mean an end to the mass spectrometer part of the mission. ®

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
MARS NEEDS WOMEN, claims NASA pseudo 'naut: They eat less
'Some might find this idea offensive' boffin admits
Boffins who stare at goats: I do believe they’re SHRINKING
Alpine chamois being squashed by global warming
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
LONG ARM of the SAUR: Brachially gifted dino bone conundrum solved
Deinocheirus mirificus was a bit of a knuckle dragger
No sail: NASA spikes Sunjammer
'Solar sail' demonstrator project binned
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
prev story

Whitepapers

Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.