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Emily LakdawallaJuly 16, 2008

A quick update on Phoenix, sol 50: Got ice? Yes!

Phoenix has successfully used its rasp tool to enable the acquisition of a sample of ice-rich soil from the surface of Mars. That's the highlight of this week's Phoenix update. I got in touch with Ray Arvidson (usually referred to as the "digging czar" when he's on a press panel, though I highly doubt he'd introduce himself that way) while both of us were traveling; in fact it seems Ray was standing in the visitor's center of Meteor Crater, Arizona when I reached him. (For my part, I'd managed to send the baby off with her uncle to the playground to get a few minutes of peace.)

Conditions were not ideal for this update so it'll be less thorough than most, but I figure it's better than nothing. Highlights this week:

Here's an animation of what went on in the scoop after their rasping:
Watching rasp scrapings sublimate on sol 50

NASA / JPL / UA / animation by Daniel Crotty

Watching rasp scrapings sublimate on sol 50
On sol 50, Phoenix used its rasp tool to scrape fine shavings from the Martian surface into its robotic arm scoop, then took five images of the contents over the course of eight hours to watch for changes. The changes are subtle, but some of the scrapings did sublimate over the course of the day, indicating that Phoenix successfully acquired a sample of ice-rich soil.
The changes are admittedly very slight and I wouldn't necessarily have been convinced they were the result of sublimation if someone on the science team hadn't told me. But Ray said that that's what the team thinks, so there you go.

I apologize for this update being short, but so's my time. Next week's will be better!

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Emily Lakdawalla

Senior Editor and Planetary Evangelist for The Planetary Society
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