July 2, 2008
Phoenix Soil Analysis Might Be Ended
The U.S. space agency says the next sample of Martian soil to be analyzed by the Phoenix Mars Lander might be its last.
A team of National Aeronautics and Space Administration engineers and scientists who assessed the spacecraft's Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer, or TEGA, after a short circuit was discovered last month has concluded another short circuit could occur when the oven is again used.
Since there is no way to assess the probability of another short circuit occurring, we are taking the most conservative approach and treating the next sample to TEGA as possibly our last, said Peter Smith, Phoenix's principal investigator.
Although mission teams will stand down until Saturday evening to mark the Fourth of July holiday, skeleton crews -- including ones at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., which manages the Phoenix mission -- will monitor the spacecraft and its instruments, NASA said.
The stand down is a chance for our team to rest, but Phoenix won't get a holiday, Smith said, noting the spacecraft will be operating from preprogrammed science commands, taking atmospheric readings, panoramas and other images.