Feeds

Phoenix eats dirt

TEGA oven finally full

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

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
Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers
Windmills, solar, tidal - all a 'false hope', say Stanford PhDs
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
HUMAN DNA 'will be FOUND ON MOON' – rockin' boffin Brian Cox
Crowdfund plan to stimulate Blighty's space programme
Post-pub nosh neckfiller: The MIGHTY Scotch egg
Off to the boozer? This delicacy might help mitigate the effects
I'M SO SORRY, sobs Rosetta Brit boffin in 'sexist' sexy shirt storm
'He is just being himself' says proud mum of larger-than-life physicist
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
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?
Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence
Download Choosing a Cloud Hosting Provider with Confidence to learn more about cloud computing - the new opportunities and new security challenges.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.