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Scientists dance as Mars Lander gets dirt into lab
uusjio | June 11, 2008 at 08:52 pmby
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After days of struggling with sticky Martian dirt, the Phoenix Mars Lander has unexpectedly succeeded in getting its first soil sample into an onboard laboratory for analysis, jubilant NASA scientists said on Wednesday.
The breakthrough came after the lander spent days vibrating a screen over its onboard Thermal Evolved Gas Analyzer (TEGA) in hopes that the clumpy soil would break loose and fall into the onboard ovens. The scientists were caught by surprise when the trick worked on the seventh, and likely last, try.
Members of the normally staid Phoenix team, who have been forced to watch for much of the last week as their first Martian soil sample lingered maddeningly close to the ovens, celebrated by cheering and dancing around the room to K.C. and the Sunshine Band`s 1970s disco hit "(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty."
"When I announced that the (vibrating) process had terminated early because the oven was full of dirt, the group just went up into cheers. I got a standing ovation and started playing some `Shake Shake Shake` music and just had a good time," said William Boynton of the University of Arizona in Tucson, who is overseeing the TEGA experiments.
Boynton speculated that the dirt, scooped from the surface of Mars, where Phoenix touched down on May 25 at the arctic circle of the Red Planet, may have finally broken apart because it had dried out after days sitting on top of the TEGA.
"The dirt is very clumpy and ...