The robotic arm on NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander slid a rock out of the way during the mission’s 117th Martian day (Sept. 22, 2008) in order to take a look at the soil underneath the rock, and to see at what depth the subsurface ice was under the rock. The lander’s Surface Stereo Imager took this image later the same day, showing the rock, called “Headless,” after the arm pushed it about 40 centimeters (16 inches) from its previous location. “The rock ended up exactly where we intended it to,” said Matt Robinson of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, robotic arm flight software lead for the Phoenix team. And what was underneath the rock? Take a look:
It’s hard to tell, exactly since the ground was disturbed from the moving. Some white material appears to be where the rock used to sit, but the Phoenix science team will have to study the area more closely. Look for official word from the team soon. It looks from this second image as though the thermal and conductivity probe was stuck in the ground a few times around the rock, searching for clues of any water molecules in the soil (look for the two separate marks left by the probe just to the right of the trench.)
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Also in recent days, the two Phoenix cameras took portraits of each other. Above is the Robotic Arm Camera (RAC) and below is the the Surface Stereo Imager:
Source: Phoenix Gallery