A fork-like probe will be used for the first time by the Phoenix Lander on Mars to analyze the Martian soil.

Mars Lander Probing Soil

The robotic arm of the Lander has inserted this probe, consisting of four spikes, into the Martian soil as a test of the insertion process. The prongs of this probe, which is capable of thermal and electrical conductivity, will be used as a tool to test how easily heat and electricity move from prong to prong, gathering information about frozen or unfrozen water in the soil. The prongs are about a half inch long, or 1.5 centimeters.

The probe sits on a “knuckle” of the 7.7 foot long robotic arm. Previously, it was used to assess water vapor in the Martian air. This would be the first time soil measurements have been done by the probe.