Scooped up Mars dirt

The Mars Phoenix Lander is finally going to scoop up its first Martian soil sample into its laboratory instrument. It's been about ten days since the landing, during which they've only managed to take pictures of the surroundings and try out the robotic arm for a couple of test scoops. Now the lander is finally about to embark on what it's been sent for. I'm looking forward to seeing what it discovers, whether it be actual water, minerals formed with the help of water, or even organics that might be the result of life.

While ten days might seem like a long time, it's quite understandable that NASA would want to take its time testing out the equipment and scouting out the surroundings. If something breaks because they hurry, there is no one around that can just unjam a certain joint or replace a singe cheap part, so they would want to make sure they don't break anything when they operate the lander.

On the other hand, this makes me wish we had manned space flight to Mars. If cost was not an issue, then a manned mission would be a whole lot better for our patience, since an astronaut would have been able to scoop up a sample for analysis on the first day. It's too bad that manned space flight is so expensive.

The image of the robotic scoop poised above the laboratory instrument is courtesy of NASA.

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