Feeds

Phoenix chokes on 'clumpy' Martian soil

Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer glitch

Security for virtualized datacentres

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. ®

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Boffins who stare at goats: I do believe they’re SHRINKING
Alpine chamois being squashed by global warming
What's that STINK? Rosetta probe shoves nose under comet's tail
Rotten eggs, horse dung and almonds – yuck
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
Kip Thorne explains how he created the black hole for Interstellar
Movie special effects project spawns academic papers on gravitational lensing
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
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
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.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
New hybrid storage solutions
Tackling data challenges through emerging hybrid storage solutions that enable optimum database performance whilst managing costs and increasingly large data stores.