HOUSTON, May 31 (UPI) -- U.S. space officials said exhaust from NASA's Phoenix spacecraft has exposed either rock or ice beneath the Mars lander.
"We could very well be seeing rock, or we could be seeing exposed ice in the retrorocket blast zone," Ray Arvidson of Washington University said in a statement. "We'll test the two ideas by getting more data, including color data, from the robotic arm camera. We think that if the hard features are ice, they will become brighter because atmospheric water vapor will collect as new frost on the ice."
Scientists are testing an instrument in the Phoenix for a possible short circuit. NASA said there appears to be an intermittent short circuit in a mass spectrometer on the spacecraft's Thermal and Evolved Gas Analyzer.
"We have developed a strategy to gain a better understanding of this behavior, and we have identified workarounds for some of the possibilities," said William Boynton of the University of Arizona, Tucson.