The robotic arm of the Phoenix Lander put Martian soil through a narrow opening to a screen above the No. 5 oven on the lander’s Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer (TEGA). A few particles of the sample were delivered through the screen last Thursday, however, there is not enough to fill the oven and allow for analysis of the sample. The Phoenix team sent commands for TEGA to vibrate the screen again last Friday which allowed more soil to reach the oven, but still not enough to begin the analysis.

“There appear to be clumps blocking the opening,” said Doug Ming, the Phoenix team’s science leader based at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. “However, we have seen in the past that when this soil sits for a while, it disperses. We intend to fill an oven with this material, either by additional vibration of the same screen or by opening doors to one of the other TEGA cells.”

The conductivity measurements were completed last Wednesday. A fork-like probe inserted into the soil checks how well heat and electricity move through the soil from one prong to another.

I especially liked the picture above, provided by NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/Texas A&M University. It shows the deep reddish color of the Martian soil and how it clumps together, though the picture is a false-color image, it’s probably fairly accurate, perhaps a bit redder than its true state. You can see by looking at the American flag at upper left that there is a reddish tint to the picture.