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Posts Tagged ‘Phoenix’


The Phoenix lander’s analysis of soil samples taken on Mars has found possible traces of a harmful chemical contaminant called perchlorate, a highly oxidizing substance which is detrimental to life according to NASA.

Perchlorate is a chemical found in rocket fuel; is harmful to life.

Perchlorate is a chemical found in rocket fuel; is harmful to life.

The tests, however were of very preliminary quality.  Thanks to the extended mission, the lander will be able to do more conclusive tests on the substance found in two separate soil samples.  There is a definite possibility that the perchlorate readings were caused by the spacecraft itself rather than the soil sources. 

The water found a few days ago, however, did not contain any perchlorate, adding to the mystery.  The soil samples containing percholorate were analyzed by the Wet Chemistry Lab of the spacecraft’s Microscopy, Electrochemistry, and Conductivity Analyzer.  The Phoenix team is also waiting for complementary results from the Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer, or TEGA, which also is capable of detecting perchlorate, it added.   This is the device that detected the presence of water on the Martian surface.

And although important nutrients including sodium, potassium and magnesium had been discovered on Mars, no organic materials had been found so far, possibly caused by the perchlorate.

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NASA scientists have confirmed that the Phoenix lander exploring Mars has found on the planet after analysis of a surface soil sample.  The discovery was made after the lander’s robotic arm delivered a sample this week to an instrument (Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer) on-board the lander that identifies the resulting vapors by heating samples.
The Phoenix using its mechanical probe to dig out some ice for analysis.

The Phoenix using its mechanical probe to dig out some ice for analysis.

 NASA officials also said that the Phoenix’s mission had been extended until the end of September as a result of its success.  The lander dug a number of small holes into Martian soil after touching down near the planet’s north pole on May 25, revealing a white substance that scientists have now confirmed as ice.  Although evidence for water ice was often speculated from observations made by the Mars Odyssey orbiter, this is the first confirmed collection of water on the Red Planet. 

The ice scooped up by Phoenix’s robotic digging arm is being analyzed to see if conditions on Mars could have supported life.  The detection of water suggests that there were in fact materials at one point in time that were the basic ingredients needed to “create” and support life.  Despite important nutrients including sodium, potassium and magnesium had been discovered, no organic materials had been found as of now.

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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.

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Scientists’ analysis of images from NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander has them nearly completely convinced of there being ice near the Red Planet’s northern pole.

Small pieces of a bright material “have vanished from inside a trench where they were photographed by NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander four days ago,” according to NASA.  This is consistent with the theory that the white material was ice that vaporized when Phoenix exposed it to the atmosphere.  There had been some question whether the bright material was salt, but this new information disproves the salt theory. 

The Possible Ice Found in the Phoenix’s Print

The bright bits of material were left in a pit scientists dubbed “Dodo-Goldilocks” and were not there when the lander took a new later image of the trench.  If you live under a rock and don’t already know, the three-month Phoenix mission is hoping to find evidence of the existence of water and life-supporting organic minerals in the polar region.

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NASA’s space craft, the Phoenix, as you know has landed on Mars.  It’s robotic arm is now finally working, and it has touched the soil for the first time, leaving a footprint-like impression.   This was just a test run.  The actual scooping of Mars’ soil will begin very soon according to NASA.

A Photo of the Phoenix’s Robotic Arm on Earth

NASA has also recently displayed fine-quality images of what appeared to be ice exposed under the thin soil.  If you do not already know, the mission’s main goal is to test ice for evidence of organic compounds that would allow for life to form in the icecaps of Mars.

Soon…so very soon.  I am almost giddy with excitement to find out what the Phoenix will discover.  Unfortunately, preliminary tests prove that the ice water is very salty, which is not the best of first signs, but there still is definitely hope.

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All is well on the Phoenix after its descent onto the pole of Mars.  All of the instruments are working to capacity.   Ever since its landing on the red planet on Sunday, the spacecraft has been filming and taking photographs of Mars’ Northern pole. 

A Photo of Mars’ Icy Ground.  The Polygonal Patterns are Probably Caused Due to the Ice Below the Ground.  Patters Like These are Found on Earth as Well.

As I already said, the Phoenix is on a three-month-long mission to dig in the soil and ice using a robotic arm.  These samples will be used to find out if the conditions on Mars can hold life.  The samples ought to contain organic compounds, the necessary  building blocks for life.

Before landing, a black and white image, aerial image of Mars was taken.   This is the first time any camera has imaged a descent through an atmosphere of another planet.  So far, so good.  Let’s hope there are no problems and we can get answers to some of these intriguing questions. 

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A small unmanned spacecraft built and driven by NASA named the Phoenix landed on the icy northern pole of Mars at 4:53 PDT yesterday.  This is the first time that a spacecraft has landed on one of the poles.  This touchdown was particularly stressful as there were no cushioned landing gear on the craft unlike the previous Spirit and Opportunity Mars rovers.

An Illustration of the Phoenix Landing

The craft, pulled by Mars’ gravity, screamed through space at somewhere around 12,700 mph before it hit the  atmosphere, allowing it to deploy a parachute to land safely on the ground.  Thus, the Phoenix ended its 10-month, 423 million-mile flight. 

NASA’s scientists discovered liquid water underneath the ice of the poles in 2002.  This mission was to sample the water and find out if life could be present in it.  NASA attempted a landing on Mars’ southern pole in 1999, but a problem (scientific calculations of distance are done with the metric meter, not feet NASA!) during the descent ended the mission with a bang.  The later Spirit and Opportunity rovers explored Mars’ equatorial region for signs of water existing in the past.  The Phoenix was built from parts of smashed up polar spacecraft.  Hopefully, we will finally find out if little green men (or bacterial life) can exist on Mars.

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