Sticky Martian dirt

The Mars Phoenix Lander has been thwarted yet again in its attempts to scoop up Martian soil into one of its lab instruments. You might remember the previous occasion when the soil was too clumpy to fall through the screen over the instruments. The same stickiness that made the soil clump together struck again in a worse way, where the soil wouldn't even drop from the scoop.

One crazy idea why the Martian soil got stuck on the scoop is because of the slime oozed from Martian life. Of course, realistically it's the half-melted water getting frozen on the scoop, although there could be some other chemical phenomenon that is the cause. While the researchers hoped to have analyzed a sample with water ice mixed in, they'll be analyzing dry samples while they figure out how to get watery samples into the instruments. I hope a short circuit doesn't break the instruments before watery samples can be analyzed.

This is yet another reason to send humans to Mars instead of just robots. With a human around, they could have just scraped off the dirt from the scoop, and we would probably done the same amount of science that the Phoenix has done so far weeks ago. I wish we had something like a space elevator to make space exploration much cheaper.

Stuck dirt

Despite all the anticipation, the Mars Phoenix Lander has failed to get Martian soil into its laboratory instrument. For some reason, while the robotic arm was able to scoop up some soil and drop it on the laboratory instrument, none of the soil seemed to have passed through the screen which protected unwanted dust from entering. It appears that the soil is more clumpy than expected, so that the standard shaking by the instrument isn't enough to break up the soil into small enough particles.

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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.

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