7 June:Nearly two weeks after its historic landing, the US Mars probe Phoenix has scooped up its first sample of Martian soil and begun analysing it for water and organic compounds, a NASA official said.
The 200-milliliter (12 cubic inches) of Martian earth is topped by a white crust that has set NASA scientists debating whether it is ice or salt deposits from evaporated water.
"It looks like a good sample for us," Phoenix mission chief scientist Peter Smith told reporters in a telephone conference on Friday.
"This is really an important occasion for us, to be poised to make a measurement for the first time of the polar soil that will tell us how much water is in the soil, and secondly what the minerals are that make up the soil," said Smith.
Especially intriguing, he said, is to find out whether ice believed to be under the Martian soil has already melted and changed the composition of the soil.
A chunk of permafrost-like soil of the Martian arctic was scooped up Thursday by the probe’s 2.35 meter titanium and aluminum backhoe-like extension.
It now lies inside the scoop, poised over an instrument called the Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer, or TEGA, where it will be dumped and sealed in for several days of analysis, the scientist said.
"The first step is to dry water out of the sample and find out what percentage of water there is. The test should tell very quickly," said Smith.
The TEGA will heat up the sample gradually to 1,000 degrees Celsius. Courtsey : DD NEWS