Feeds

Phoenix chokes on 'clumpy' Martian soil

Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer glitch

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

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. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
MEN: For pity's sake SLEEP with LOTS of WOMEN - and avoid Prostate Cancer
And, um, don't sleep with other men. If that's what worries you
Voyager 1 now EIGHTEEN LIGHT HOURS from home
Almost 20 BEEELION kilometres from Sol
HUGE SHARK as big as a WWII SUBMARINE died out, allowing whales to exist
Who'd win a fight: Megalodon or a German battleship?
Jim Beam me up, Scotty! WHISKY from SPAAACE returns to Earth
They're insured for $1m, before you thirsty folks make plans
ROGUE SAIL BOAT blocks SPACE STATION PODULE blastoff
Er, we think our ISS launch beats your fishing expedition
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
BAE points electromagnetic projectile at US Army
Railguns for 'Future fighting vehicle'
OK Google, do I have CANCER?
Company talks up pill that would spot developing tumors
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.
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.
Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile
Data demand and the rise of virtualization is challenging IT teams to deliver storage performance, scalability and capacity that can keep up, while maximizing efficiency.
Mitigating web security risk with SSL certificates
Web-based systems are essential tools for running business processes and delivering services to customers.