Feeds

Phoenix eats dirt

TEGA oven finally full

Intelligent flash storage arrays

The Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer (TEGA) aboard NASA's Phoenix Mars lander finally has an ovenful of dirt for anlaysis, following various attempts to shake the "clumpy" Martian soil into the instrument.

The "high-temperature furnace and mass spectrometer" TEGA packs eight miniature ovens, each protected by a filter screen to prevent the entry of particles larger than 1mm. However, the Red Planet's surface resolutely refused to play ball when NASA tried to fill oven number four last Friday, and the infrared beam designed to detect particles falling into the oven showed no activity.

NASA then deployed the "whirligig mechanism that vibrates the screen to help shake small particles through" and vibrated the oven's screen on 6, 8 and 9 June, which resulted in just a few particles surrendering to the chamber. However, NASA yesterday announced the oven was full, although it's not quite sure why, with Phoenix co-investigator Bill Boynton of the University of Arizona offering that it "might have filled because of the cumulative effects of all the vibrating, or because of changes in the soil's cohesiveness as it sat for days on the top of the screen".

Nonetheless, Boynton declared: "We have an oven full. It took 10 seconds to fill the oven. The ground moved."

Phoenix Principal Investigator Peter Smith, of the University of Arizona, said: "There's something very unusual about this soil, from a place on Mars we've never been before. We're interested in learning what sort of chemical and mineral activity has caused the particles to clump and stick together."

While TEGA can now get on with "sniffing" the soil to "assess its volatile ingredients, such as water", Phoenix's tasks today comprise "sprinkling Martian soil on the delivery port for the spacecraft's Optical Microscope and taking additional portions of a high-resolution color panorama of the lander's surroundings". ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
SECRET U.S. 'SPACE WARPLANE' set to return from SPY MISSION
Robot minishuttle X-37B returns after almost 2 years in orbit
No sail: NASA spikes Sunjammer
'Solar sail' demonstrator project binned
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
You can crunch it all you like, but the answer is NOT always in the data
Hear that, 'data journalists'? Our analytics prof holds forth
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
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
Origins of SEXUAL INTERCOURSE fished out of SCOTTISH LAKE
Fossil find proves it first happened 385 million years ago
America's super-secret X-37B plane returns to Earth after nearly TWO YEARS aloft
674 days in space for US Air Force's mystery orbital vehicle
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
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.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
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?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.