[meteorite-list] Analysis Begins on Deepest Soil Sample (Phoenix)

From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Tue, 2 Sep 2008 17:04:05 -0700 (PDT)
Message-ID: <200809030004.RAA04121_at_zagami.jpl.nasa.gov>


Analysis Begins on Deepest Soil Sample
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
September 01, 2008

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Scientists have begun to analyze a sample of soil
delivered to NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander's wet chemistry experiment from
the deepest trench dug so far in the Martian arctic plains.

Phoenix has also been observing movement of clouds overhead.

The lander's robotic arm on Sunday sprinkled a small fraction of the
estimated 50 cubic centimeters of soil that had been scooped up from the
informally named "Stone Soup" trench on Saturday, the 95th day of the
mission. The Stone Soup trench, in the left portion of the lander's
active workspace, is approximately 18 centimeters (7 inches) deep.

"This is pretty exciting stuff and we are anxious to find out what makes
this deeper soil cloddier than the other samples," said Doug Ming, a
Phoenix science team member from NASA's Johnson Space Center, Houston.

The surface of the vast arctic plain where Phoenix landed on May 25
bears a pattern of polygon-shaped small hummocks, similar to some
permafrost terrain on Earth. Scientists are particularly interested in
the new sample because it is the first delivered to an analytical
instrument from a trench on the margin between two of the polygons,
where different material may collect than what has been analyzed from
near the center of a polygon. Seen inside Phoenix's scoop Sunday, the
sample material from the bottom of the trench displayed clumping
characteristics somewhat different from other cloddy soil samples that
have been collected and examined.

A series of images of fresh soil dug and discarded from Stone Soup
trench have given some clues to the composition of the sample. While
spectral observations have not produced any sign of water-ice, bigger
clumps of soil have shown a texture that could be consistent with
elevated concentration of salts in the soil from deep in the trench. The
lander's wet chemistry laboratory can identify soluble salts in the soil.

The science team has also been studying a movie created from still
pictures of the nearby Martian sky showing dramatic water ice clouds
moving over the landing site during a 10-minute period on Sol 94 (Aug. 29).

"The images were taken as part of a campaign to see clouds and track
wind. These are clearly ice clouds," said Mark Lemmon, the lead
scientist for the lander's surface stereo imager, from Texas A&M

The Phoenix mission is led by Peter Smith of the University of Arizona,
Tucson, with project management at JPL and development partnership at
Lockheed Martin, Denver. International contributions are provided by the
Canadian Space Agency; the University of Neuchatel, Switzerland; the
universities of Copenhagen and Aarhus, Denmark; the Max Planck
Institute, Germany; and the Finnish Meteorological Institute. JPL is a
division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

Additional information on Phoenix is available online at:
http://www.nasa.gov/phoenix and at http://phoenix.lpl.arizona.edu .

Media contacts: Guy Webster 818-354-6278
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
guy.webster at jpl.nasa.gov

Dwayne Brown 202-358-1726
NASA Headquarters, Washington
dwayne.c.brown at nasa.gov

Sara Hammond 520-626-1974
University of Arizona, Tucson
shammond at lpl.arizona.edu
Received on Tue 02 Sep 2008 08:04:05 PM PDT

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