NASA: Mars Lander ready to sprinkle soil

June 10, 2008 at 2:41 PM
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PASADENA, Calif., June 10 (UPI) -- The U.S. space agency says the Phoenix Mars Lander will use its robotic arm to sprinkle Martian soil on a rotating wheel so as to better view it.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration says the spacecraft will sprinkle a spoonful of Martian soil on the wheel so it will rotate the sample into place for viewing by the spacecraft's optical microscope.

On Tuesday's schedule was a set of atmosphere observations in coordination with overhead passes of NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The experiments allow instruments on Phoenix and on the orbiter to examine the same column of atmosphere simultaneously from above and below.

Phoenix Monday tested delivering Martian soil by sprinkling it rather than dumping it. NASA said the positive result prompted researchers not only to proceed with plans for soil delivery to the microscope, but also to plan on sprinkling a sample in the near future into one of the eight ovens of an instrument that bakes and sniffs samples,

The Phoenix mission is led by Peter Smith at the University of Arizona with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., providing overall project management.

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