The Mars Phoenix Lander has finally managed to shake some Martial soil into its laboratory instrument. The TEGA, the laboratory instrument on the lander, has eight ovens for baking soil to analyze the ingredients. When the robotic arm scooped up soil to one of the ovens a few days ago, the soil got clogged on the screen over the oven, preventing analysis. They finally managed to unclog the soil after applying a new method of shaking the screen.
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.
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.
The Mars Phoenix Lander has managed to take some really close-up pictures of Mars dust. The picture was taken off of a silicon substrate which was exposed so that dust kicked off when the lander landed would stick to it. I don't know what to make of the picture, but it still gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling to see something so microscopic from Mars.
The image above is from NASA.