Feeds

Phoenix chokes on 'clumpy' Martian soil

Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer glitch

High performance access to file storage

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. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Video games make you NASTY AND VIOLENT
Especially if you are bad at them and keep losing
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
Solar-powered aircraft unveiled for round-the-world flight
It's going to be a slow and sleepy flight for the pilots
Russian deputy PM: 'We are coming to the Moon FOREVER'
Plans to annex Earth's satellite with permanent base by 2030
LOHAN's Punch and Judy show relaunches Thursday
Weather looking good for second pop at test flights
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
India's GPS alternative launches second satellite
Closed satnav system due to have all seven birds aloft by 2016
Curiosity finds not-very-Australian-shaped rock on Mars
File under 'messianic pastries' and move on, people
prev story

Whitepapers

Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.