Mars Lander Phoenix Scoops Martian Soil for First Time
And for the first time ever, scientists from NASA are getting a chance to examine soil samples from mars, thanks to the newly-landed Phoenix mars lander.
The test dig made by the lander's 8-foot robotic arm uncovered bits of bright specks in the soil, believed to be ice or salt. This goes towards the lander's mission of looking for signs of past water and organic compounds around the far northern latitudes of Mars.
NASA's newest spacecraft got down and dirty on Mars, taking its first practice scoop of Martian soil ahead of the actual dig expected later this week, scientists said Monday.
The test dig made Sunday by the Phoenix Mars Lander's 8-foot-long robotic arm uncovered bits of bright specks in the soil believed to be ice or salt.
"We see this nice streak of white material," said Pat Woida, senior engineer at the University of Arizona, Tucson, which is directing the mission. "We don't know what this material is yet."
Phoenix landed in the Martian arctic plains May 25 on a three-month hunt to study whether the far northern latitudes could support primitive life. Its main task is to excavate trenches in the permafrost in search of evidence of past water and organic compounds considered the chemical building blocks of life. The cost of the mission is $420 million.