NASA scientists plan to test out the process of shaving and collecting ice on the Phoenix, the Mars lander. The first test was conducted on July 15. The scrapings are being taken from a 5-centimeter deep hole informally known as Snow White.
A Color Photograph of “Snow White”
The ice scrapings will be placed into a tiny oven in the lander’s Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer, which heats up samples of Martian dirt and analyzes the vapors they give off. Mission team members hope that analysis of the ice samples will show that they are rich in water ice, which aids the argument that there still may be life on the red planet. The mission is not to detect microbes, but to discover if the environment is suitable for them; water is a natural necessity.
The sample for the TEGA instrument will also be taken from this same trench. Mission controllers hope to collect and deliver the sample quickly and early in the Martian morning to minimize the amount of ice lost to sublimation, the process of solid (ice) going directly into a gaseous phase.