Phoenix Takes Microscopic Image of Scoop Content

This pan and zoom animation shows a microscopic view of fine-grained material at the tip of the Robotic Arm scoop as seen by the Robotic Arm Camera (RAC) aboard NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander on June 20, 2008, the 26th Martian day, or sol, of the mission.

RAC scientists took this image at a resolution of 30 microns by rotating the scoop to within 11 millimeters of the camera’s front lens and refocusing the camera to macro focus. The image shows small clumps of fine, fluffy, red soil particles collected in a sample called ‘Rosy Red.’ The sample was dug from the trench named ‘Snow White’ in the area called ‘Wonderland.’ Some of the Rosy Red sample was delivered to Phoenix’s Optical Microscope and Wet Chemistry Laboratory for analysis.

The RAC provides its own illumination, so the color seen in RAC images is color as seen on Earth, not color as it would appear on Mars.

The image behind the RAC animation, taken by Phoenix’s Surface Stereo Imager also on Sol 26, provides context.

RAC Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/Max Planck Institute Surface Stereo Imager Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/Texas A&M University

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~ by aspoeth on June 26, 2008.

One Response to “Phoenix Takes Microscopic Image of Scoop Content”

  1. What NASA, JPL and the University of Arizona have accomplished is stunning. But don’t break out the champagne yet. The Phoenix Lander last week conducted its first wet chemical analysis through its Microscopy, Electrochemistry and Conductivity Analyzer (MECA), which mixes the soil sample with water and bakes the mud to 1,832 degrees Fahrenheit to test for chemical composition. The results show the martian soil had a pH between 8 and 9, meaning it is alkaline — the kind of soil you could grow vegetables in if you brought it back to Earth, tossed in some cow manure, and watered regularly. MECA detected the presence of magnesium, sodium, potassium and chloride but no organic carbon, the crucial ingredient necessary for life on Earth (alright, maybe silicon might also work). Interestingly, JPL tells us that the mineral content of the soil is not much different from the upper dry valleys in Antarctica. What Phoenix’ wet chemical analysis (still ongoing) shows is that there is no life in the soil sample tested by MECA. They’re going to dig down further in the next few days. The Phoenix Lander’s follow-the-water strategy for searching for organic compounds is, however, exactly the right strategy for NASA or other space agencies to pursue. Here’s a hint — if tomorrow we could land the Phoenix Lander or Mars Science Laboratory on Enceladus or Titan or any other body in this sun system, the test results would show that there is no life in this sun system other than on Earth. It takes more than liquid water for life to emerge. But the Milky Way galaxy is teeming with life and with intelligent life. “The truth is out there.”

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