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.