July 22, 2008

Arizona Governor Visits Phoenix Team

Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano visited the Phoenix mission Science Operations Center at The University of Arizona Monday to see how NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander was progressing.

UA's Peter Smith, Phoenix principal investigator, showed Napolitano panoramic images taken by the Surface Stereo Imager (SSI) on the lander. The panoramas were projected onto five adjacent screens that displayed the images 11 feet tall and 70 feet wide.

Smith said that seeing the large-sized images made a big impression on the governor.

"I think she had an out-of-this-world experience," he said.

It was Napolitano's first visit to the Phoenix operations center since the spacecraft landed on Mars on May 25. She had previously visited in February.

On Mars, Phoenix early Tuesday finished its longest work shift of the mission. The lander stayed awake 33 hours, completing tasks that included rasping and scraping by the robotic arm, plus atmosphere observations in coordination with simultaneous observations by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

"Our rasping test yesterday gave us enough confidence that we're now planning for the next use of the rasp to be for acquiring a sample to be delivered to TEGA," said Phoenix Project Manager Barry Goldstein of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. TEGA is Phoenix's Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer, an instrument that heats samples in small ovens and uses a mass spectrometer to study the vapors driven off by the heating.

As preparation for that sample delivery in coming days, the Phoenix team developed plans to command the lander Tuesday evening to conduct 80 scrapings of the bottom of a trench informally named "Snow White." The scraping is designed to freshly expose frozen material and ready the surface for using the rasp. \


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