Martian Soil Sample Clogs Phoenix Probe’s Oven

Scientists ran into a snag when trying to deliver a sample of Martian arctic soil to one of the instruments on NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander, mission controllers said on Saturday.
The lander’s robotic arm released a handful of clumpy Martian soil onto a screened opening of the Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer (TEGA) on Friday, but the instrument did not confirm that any of the sample passed through the screen.
Images taken on Friday show soil resting on the screen over an open sample-delivery door of TEGA, which is designed to heat up soil samples and analyze the vapors they give off to determine the soil’s composition.
The researchers have not yet determined why none of the sample appears to have gotten past the screen, but they have begun proposing possibilities.
“I think it’s the cloddiness of the soil and not having enough fine granular material,” said Ray Arvidson of Washington University in St. Louis, the digging czar for the $420 million Phoenix mission.

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