quarta-feira, 29 de outubro de 2008

Phoenix completes soil deliver

Posted: October 22, 2008
NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander has finished scooping soil samples to deliver to its onboard laboratories, and is now preparing to analyse samples already obtained before the Sun completely sets on the mission.
Last week, the lander's robotic arm successfully delivered soil into oven six of the Thermal and Evolved Gas Analyser (TEGA), a bonus for the mission since the mission goal of filling and examining soil in at least three of the ovens has already been completed.

This image shows four of the eight cells in the TEGA instrument. TEGA's ovens, located underneath the cells, heat soil samples so the released gases can be analysed. Left to the right the cells are numbered 7, 6, 5 and 4, with the most recent delivery to cell 6 Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/Max Planck Institute.

The project scientists are keen to analyse the samples as the power Phoenix generates continues to drop as autumn on Mars gradually sets in. "My entire team is working very hard to make use of the power we have before it disappears," says William Boynton, the lead scientist for TEGA. "Every time we fill an oven, we potentially learn more about Mars' geochemistry." TEGA's tiny ovens heat the soil to as high as 1,000 degrees Celsius in order to sniff out the gases derived from heating the soil.
Meanwhile, the spacecraft's robotic arm is digging into the lower portion of the Upper Cupboard and Stone Soup regions of the Phoenix workspace and the Surface Stereoscopic Imager is documenting trenching so scientists can better map out the geology of the ice table already found a few centimetres below the surface. "We're basically trying to understand the depth and extent of the ice table to tie together how geology and climate control its formation," says Phoenix mission scientist Diana Blaney of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Later this week, mission engineers will instruct Phoenix to use its robotic arm to attempt to push a soil sample piled in a funnel on top of the lander's Wet Chemistry Laboratory into a cell for analysis. Images of the soil already captured will be taken using the Optical Microscope. In addition, digital-elevation models of a rock called Sandman are scheduled with Phoenix's Robotic Arm Camera.
Mission scientists will continue to research and analyse the soil samples in the coming months, long after Phoenix stops operating on the surface.
Lucimary Vargas
Observatório Astronômico Monoceros
Além Paraíba-MG-Brasil

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