The Phoenix lander began digging in an area called “Wonderland” early Tuesday, taking its first scoop of soil from a polygonal surface feature within the “national park” region that mission scientists have been preserving for science. The lander’s Robotic Arm created the new test trench called “Snow White” on June 17, the 22nd Martian day, or sol that Phoenix has been on the Red Planet. However, all of the newly planned science activities will resume no earlier than Sol 24 as engineers look into how the spacecraft is handling larger than expected amounts of data.
During Tuesdayâ€™s dig, the arm didn’t reach the hard white material, possibly ice, which Phoenix exposed previously in the first trench it dug into the Martian soil. This trench was only 2 centimeters deep, and the previous trench (the Goldilocks-Dodo Trench) was about 5 cm deep.
So, scientists weren’t surprised at this, and in fact, finding no ice is what they expected and wanted. The Snow White trench is near the center of a relatively flat hummock, or polygon, named “Cheshire Cat,” where scientists predict there will be more soil layers or thicker soil above possible white material.
The Phoenix team plans at least one more day of digging deeper into the Snow White trench. They will study soil structure in the Snow White trench to decide at what depths they will collect samples from a future trench planned for the center of the polygon.
Meanwhile, the Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer (TEGA) instrument continues its ongoing experiment in the first of its eight ovens, and the science team hasn’t yet released any data on the “cooking” at higher temperatures.
TEGA has eight separate tiny ovens to bake and sniff the soil to look for volatile ingredients, such as water. The baking is performed at three different temperature ranges. At the first two temperature ranges, TEGA didn’t detect any water molecules or organics in the soil.
News Source: Phoenix News