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Emily LakdawallaJune 17, 2008

Getting back up to speed on Phoenix: up to sol 22, first dig at Wonderland

I've spent a chunk of today working on figuring out what Phoenix has been up to during my absence. Mark Lemmon's pages have been really helpful, especially now that he has added pithy little sol-by-sol summaries to his directory page. Here's the amusing list of events to date:

Sol 022 Open up Wonderland for exploratio
ol 021 Atmosphere so
ol 020 Continue dodo trenching, wantonly destroy fragment
ol 019 More digging, dislodge interesting fragment
ol 018 Strip mine Dodo
ol 017 Deliver to MEC
ol 016 MRO/PHX coordinated observations
ol 015 Sprinkle gently on MEC
ol 014 Get ready to bury MEC
ol 013 Find missing spring to go with found spring
ol 012 Bury TEG
ol 011 Sample for TEG
ol 010 Runout
ol 009 Document sample site
ol 008 Document TEGA, OM prep; image workspace
ol 007 Dig! (well, test sample)
ol 006 Image RA touch, TEGA prep, workspace
ol 005 Document Queen of Hearts
ol 004 Finish unstow R
ol 003 Look around more, unstow R
ol 002 Runout
ol 001 Start looking around
ol 000 Land
I've now posted lengthier summaries, incorporating what I have been able to find out about the activities of instruments other than SSI (the mast-mounted camera). I've also updated my own image pages. I'm no longer tracking the SSI images, since Mark does a much better job with those, so at the moment it contains only images from the Robotic Arm Camera. What about the microscope? The official mission raw images pages showed microscope images from sol 4, but haven't shown any since. I sent an inquiry to the Phoenix press office, and was told that the overworked Web team is reworking how the captions are automatically generated for the optical microscope images because the captions didn't make sense as they were. Hopefully that work will be done soon and we'll start seeing microscope images on the site as they are taken.

Over the weekend, sols 19 to 21 they did a lot of work digging away at the Dodo and Goldilocks trench sites. Here's what the site looked like when they were nearly done with digging:

Sol 19 view of Dodo-Goldilocks trench site

NASA / JPL / UA / Texas A & M

Sol 19 view of Dodo-Goldilocks trench site
For the first 21 sols of the Phoenix mission, digging activities focused on an area known as "Dodo-Goldilocks", visible as the broad trench in this color view from sol 19. The Dodo (on the left) and Goldilocks (on the right) were dug at the edge of one of the polygons that make up the Phoenix landing site terrain. Samples from this area were delivered to TEGA oven 4 and to the Optical Microscope. At the far end of the trench (top of the image) the scoop seemed just to clip some bright white material; it was not known at the time this image was taken whether the material was salty or icy in nature. One clump of white material has rolled down into the bottom of the Dodo trench at left; this clump was obliterated during the last digging activity on a subsequent sol.
Digging is now complete at this site, for the time being. They plan to image it from time to time to see if that white stuff changes in appearance; it should if it's ice, but shouldn't if it's salt.

As of sol 22 they have moved on to digging at a new site called Wonderland. Apparently that name applies to the whole digging area; the trench itself is named Snow White. The dump site is at the top of the trench and is named Croquet Ground. Here's a nice view put together by Gordan Ugarkovic.

Sol 22 trench at Wonderland

NASA / JPL / UA / Texas A & M / color composite by Gordan Ugarkovic

Sol 22 trench at Wonderland
On sol 22, Phoenix moved to a new site at the extreme right end of its workspace, called Wonderland. Unlike the previous Dodo-Goldilocks digging site, Wonderland is in the center of a polygon. The first day's trenching did not reach any layer of bright material.
According to a caption on a grayscale version of this image on the JPL website, this trench is currently only 2 centimeters deep (it is 30 centimeters long), so it's no surprise to the team that they did not encounter any white material. The white material was at a depth of about 5 centimeters at Dodo-Goldilocks. There will be more digging in this trench in the coming days.

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Emily Lakdawalla

Solar System Specialist for The Planetary Society
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