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Latest Lander Stories

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2008-07-01 15:35:27

NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander enlarged the "Snow White" trench and scraped up little piles of icy soil on Saturday, June 28, the 33rd Martian day, or sol, of the mission. Scientists say that the scrapings are ideal for the lander's analytical instruments. The robotic arm on Phoenix used the blade on its scoop to make 50 scrapes in the icy layer buried under subsurface soil. The robotic arm then heaped the scrapings into a few 10- to 20-cubic centimeter piles, or piles each containing between two...

2008-06-24 12:00:57

The U.S. space agency said its Phoenix Mars Lander was ready to conduct a microscopic analysis of Martian soil Thursday -- the 29th day of the mission. The soil was to undergo examination under the lander's optical microscope, with Phoenix's robotic arm to deliver some of that same scoop of soil for the first wet chemistry experiment on Mars. That experiment is to be conducted later this week. National Aeronautics and Space Administration scientists made a diagnostic test run Monday that...

2008-06-24 02:29:15

By Alicia Chang LOS ANGELES - Bizarre microbes flourish in the most punishing environments on Earth from the bone-dry Atacama Desert in Chile to the boiling hot springs of Yellowstone National Park to the sunless sea bottom vents in the Pacific. Could such exotic life emerge in the frigid arctic plains of Mars? NASA's Phoenix spacecraft could soon find out. Since plopping down near the Martian north pole a month ago, the three-legged lander has been busy poking its long arm into the...

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2008-06-20 17:45:00

Scientists rejoiced on Friday after learning NASA's Phoenix Lander dug up underground ice on the plains surrounding the North Pole of Mars, but said they have more to accomplish before the summer ends. Using mini chemistry labs on the spacecraft, they hope to determine whether the frozen water excavated with the lander's robot arm, as well as nearby soil, contains the chemical building blocks of life. Peter Smith, the University of Arizona researcher who leads the Phoenix mission's science...

2008-06-20 09:00:16

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Scientists believe NASA's Phoenix Mars lander exposed bits of ice while digging in the soil of the Martian arctic in recent days. Principal investigator Peter Smith said Thursday that crumbs of bright material seen in the trench have since vanished. He says that means it must have been frozen water that vaporized after being exposed. Scientists had also considered whether the specks might be salt. Smith points out that salt wouldn't have vaporized. The lander is on a...

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2008-06-19 21:00:00

Dice-size crumbs of bright material have vanished from inside a trench where they were photographed by NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander four days ago, convincing scientists that the material was frozen water that vaporized after digging exposed it. "It must be ice," said Phoenix Principal Investigator Peter Smith of the University of Arizona, Tucson. "These little clumps completely disappearing over the course of a few days, that is perfect evidence that it's ice. There had been some question...

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2008-06-19 00:35:00

NASA engineers worked Wednesday to fix a glitch that caused the Phoenix lander to lose a day's worth of data during its mission near Mars' north pole. Engineers discovered the problem Tuesday evening when Phoenix sent a single piece of data 45,000 times. The Phoenix lander had been digging a trench inside a polygon-shaped surface feature, likely caused by seasonal changes and ice shrinkage. The spacecraft attempted to send back pictures of the trench, but the data overload stopped the...

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2008-06-18 00:05:00

NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander began digging in an area called "Wonderland" early Tuesday, taking its first scoop of soil from a polygonal surface feature within the "national park" region that mission scientists have been preserving for science. The lander's Robotic Arm created the new test trench called "Snow White" on June 17, the 22nd Martian day, or sol, after the Phoenix spacecraft landed on May 25. Newly planned science activities will resume no earlier than Sol 24 as engineers look into...

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2008-06-17 00:20:00

Scientists are trying to determine whether the Phoenix lander has found ice or salt on Mars. It's been three weeks since Phoenix touched ground on Mars' north pole region with the mission of finding more clues as to whether or not the planet could be habitable. Equipped with a backhoe-like robotic arm, Phoenix has turned up specks of what appears to be white material amongst the red dirt. Photos show that the white matter is only present in the top part of the trench. Over the weekend,...

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2008-06-16 21:25:00

TUCSON, Ariz. -- One of the ovens on NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander continued baking its first sample of Martian soil over the weekend, while the Robotic Arm dug deeper into the soil to learn more about white material first revealed on June 3. "The oven is working very well and living up to our expectations," said Phoenix co-investigator Bill Boynton of the University of Arizona, Tucson. Boynton leads the Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer (TEGA), or oven instrument, for Phoenix. Phoenix has...