Next TEGA “Bake” Could Be Last for Phoenix

The “vibrating” done to get the first Mars arctic soil sample into Phoenix’s TEGA (Thermal and Evolved Gas Analyzer) oven may have caused a short circuit that could happen again the next time the oven is used, perhaps with fatal results. A team of engineers and scientists assembled to assess TEGA after a short circuit was discovered in the instrument, and came to a fairly disheartening conclusion. “Since there is no way to assess the probability of another short circuit occurring, we are taking the most conservative approach and treating the next sample to TEGA as possibly our last,” said Peter Smith, Phoenix’s principal investigator. Therefore, the Phoenix team is doing everything they can to assure the next sample delivered to TEGA will be ice-rich.

The short circuit was believed to have been caused when TEGA’s oven number four was vibrated repeatedly over the course of several days to break up clumpy soil so that it could get inside the oven. Delivery to any TEGA oven involves a vibration action, and turning on the vibrator in any oven will cause oven number 4 to vibrate as well, which could cause a short.

A sample taken from the trench called “Snow White” that was in Phoenix’s robotic arm’s scoop earlier this week likely has dried out, so the soil particles are to be delivered to the lander’s optical microscope on Thursday. If material remains in the scoop, the rest will be deposited in the Wet Chemistry Laboratory, possibly early on Sunday.

The mission teams will mark the Independence Day holiday with a planned “stand down” from Thursday morning, July 3, to Saturday evening, July 5. A skeleton crew at the University of Arizona in Tucson, at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., and Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver, Colo., will continue to monitor the spacecraft and its instruments over the holiday period.

“The stand down is a chance for our team to rest, but Phoenix won’t get a holiday,” Smith said. The spacecraft will be operating from pre-programmed science commands, taking atmospheric readings and panoramas and other images.

Once the sample is delivered to the chemistry experiment, Smith said the highest priority will be obtaining the ice-rich sample and delivering it to TEGA’s oven number zero.

The Phoenix team will conduct tests and trial runs so the instruments can deliver the icy sample quickly, in order to avoid sublimation of materials during the delivery process, so the solid ice doesn’t vaporize.

Original News Source: Phoenix News

13 Replies to “Next TEGA “Bake” Could Be Last for Phoenix”

  1. Hmmm!… Well I still have the highest faith…(hopes).. Anyway… By the way, … It isn’t “soil”… Yet..

  2. I too, will keep high hopes and crossed fingers that all goes well with the next “baking.” How sad it would be to lose phoenix while in the midst of so many fantastic discoveries. Keep up the good work guys and gals, and best of luck….. Soil… Regolith… Reguardless of the term applied, it is what it is. I feel Nancy’s point, reguardless of what terminology was used, came through crystal clear. Furthermore, at least in my opinion, from what we have learned thus far about the martian “regolith” it seems that it will, with a little more testing, fit quite well the definition of soil.

  3. Fingers crosse, people.
    I guess it’s a bit (!) disheartening to get Phoenix all that way, for a key component to fail, but on the positive, the fact it got there at all is nothing short of amazing.
    Give it all you’ve got, guys!!

  4. I’m concerned about the “ice”. If a scraped sample can dry out in a matter of days, how can there be water ice in the very top layers of soil after years of exposure? Certainly a layer of dirt will retard evaporation (or sublimation), but it still must occur, only at a slower rate. I’ve been waiting anxiously for the analysis. Just what is the percentage water in previous samples? Hopefully the “disappearing clods” aren’t the only evidence for H2O.

  5. Neoguru, the ice melts faster because of the high atmospheric pressure in Mars. (As far as I know).

    Its still good cuz when humans go there, we can use the water prolly cuz the spacecrafts have optimum pressure.

  6. I’m really hoping that Phoenix finds organics before TEGA shorts out. The lack of any organics is the one very odd piece of evidence from Viking upon which all the positive life results were discounted. If Phoenix does not find evidence of life, or at least organics, because of one short-circuit, the meager efforts of modern science to answer one of the most fundamental questions of existence will become even more laughable (in a sad way). Conspiracy theories to hide life on Mars will have a field day; even books that take an objective hard look at the history of the discovery of life on Mars, like “Imminent Discovery”, will have much more to ponder about and start getting more traction.

    Good Luck Phoenix!. Let’s get this done!

  7. I find the NASA – Mars relation full of plain idiotic plans, thoughts, missions, and bland speculations.

    The baking test is one of them.

    The other one is why NASA gives out to the public, altered, mutilated photo, with sloppy, childish, pasted strips.

    Then not calculating the time in the manned mission to the planet: for instance, if a ship would take astronauts to Mars, and they have to remain on the red planet for two years, why the decision makers do not take “time passing” in their calculations.

    In two years technology will make almost for sure a tremendous leap. Yet they think about astronauts using the SAME ship to return.

    Two years on the Martian surface can damage that ship beyond repair. Anyone with a regular gray layer on his brain can tell that it would be better – taking the technological advances into consideration- to send a more modern unmanned ship for them to return, leaving the old one as a back up.

  8. For a sloppy cutting and pasting example by NASA take a pick at this UTUBE clip:

  9. The presence of Ice on Phoenex and its disapperance indicates the law pressure on Mars ,due to lyophilization process.

  10. WOW! Lots of bad attitude on this forum. Nothing but “NASA stinks” and other sentiments from folks, most of whom couldn’t put together a decent go-kart, let alone a land probe to another planet. But, I guess all you you know better, because you’re all on the internet now, right?

  11. Dave Finton –
    I’m with you. In this day and age people expect results and success now. I won’t even begin to write about politics in this forum.
    No “NASA stinks” from this guy. I am beginning to lose a little faith (just a little) in the science part of this mission, but I’m okay with the technical side. This mission cost a lot of money (and brain power). These are the objectives of the Phoenix mission:
    Have they succeeded? Not yet.. Modest objectives (in my opinion) for the price tag, but I believe this is also a stepping stone for future exploration. As one person commented: “ steps, baby steps..”. We got there, we landed and the instruments seem to work for the most part.
    As another person once said (outside of this forum): “Patience is a virtue”.. we will know most of the answers eventually. It may take “boots on the ground” to do it, but we will do it… and Phoenix is just another step closer.

  12. Ralph Rewes, it might be logical in your head, but chances are NASA, an organization of hundreds (thousands? I have no idea how big NASA is) people with the same or even stronger drives to research Mars are going to have better ideas than you.
    NASA hasn’t done anything wrong with the Phoenix mission…the very purpose of it is a good and logical, and so far everything has been great aside from this little problem, if you’ll allow me to call it little. This is just a step toward more thorough explorations of the planet. Baby steps!
    In regards to the images, it takes awhile to scan the whole surrounding, and they have to digitally edit it (a painstakingly long process, I’m sure) to look aesthetically pleasing and ‘normal.’ They do us a favor by releasing us the preliminary shots, giving us things right as they come in! A few days later, they always re-release the touched up image. If you’d like, you don’t have to look at the images as they come in. Nobody’s forcing you to get the first peek. Just wait about a week and you’ll get the wholesome, perfect data you want.
    And there will probably not be a ‘tremendous leap’ in the type of rocket used for interplanetary travel in 2 years? Maybe technology here on Earth, i.e., how much a a TB of RAM costs, will change, but I’m pretty sure it takes a little longer for rockets to undergo major changes.
    You’re the one being ‘idiotic’ with your ‘bland speculations’ as to what will be available in 2 years’ time. What do you want them to do, guess what kind of ship they’ll return on? And not to mention the cost of that mission…using two rockets and leaving one behind…would probably be astronomical (yes, great adjective, I know.)
    You speak as if NASA are morons. I think you need to do a little thinking before speaking and realize how things are really working. You’ve got a skewed impression on..well…just about everything in your post.
    In addition, your post was just really bitter on the whole. Maybe you should get a glass of lemonade and relax a bit, chief. Life’s too short, smile a little.

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