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Phoenix Still Probing Mars For Secrets

This image shows four of the eight cells in the Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer, or TEGA, on NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander. TEGA's ovens, located underneath the cells, heat soil samples so the released gases can be analyzed. Left to right, the cells are numbered 7, 6, 5 and 4. Phoenix's Robotic Arm delivered soil most recently to cell 6 on the 137th Martian day, or sol, of the mission (Oct. 13, 2008). Phoenix's Robotic Arm Camera took this image at 3:03 p.m. local solar time on Sol 138 (Oct. 14, 2008). (NASA/JPL/University of Arizona/Max Planck Institute)
by Staff Writers
Tucson AZ (SPX) Oct 20, 2008
The Phoenix Mars Lander's robotic arm successfully delivered soil into oven six of the lander's thermal and evolved-gas analyzer, or TEGA, on Monday, Oct. 13, or the 137th Martian day, or sol, of the mission.

The delivery to oven six is a "bonus round" for Phoenix, as the mission goal requirement of filling and analyzing soil in at least three of the ovens has already been satisfied. Six of eight ovens have been used to date.

TEGA's tiny ovens heat the soil to as high as 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit, which is about 1,000 degrees Celsius. The lab's mass spectrometer, then "smells" and analyzes the gases derived from heating the soil. Mission scientists will continue to research and analyze the soil samples in the coming months, long after Phoenix stops operating on the surface.

Now in Martian late-summer, Phoenix is gradually getting less power as the sun drops below the horizon.

"My entire team is working very hard to make use of the power we have before it disappears," said William Boynton of The University of Arizona, the lead scientist for TEGA. "Every time we fill an oven, we potentially learn more about Mars' geochemistry."

NASA's Phoenix mission is led by Peter Smith of the UA with project management at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., and development partnership at Lockheed Martin, Denver. International contributions come from the Canadian Space Agency; the University of Neuchatel; the universities of Copenhagen and Aarhus, Denmark; the Max Planck Institute, German; and the Finnish Meteorological Institute.

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Phoenix Mars Mission Honored By Popular Mechanics
Pasadena CA (SPX) Oct 17, 2008
NASA's Phoenix Mars Mission is being honored with a Breakthrough Award by Popular Mechanics magazine in New York City. In its fourth year, the awards recognize innovators who improve lives and expand possibilities in science, technology, engineering and exploration.

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