Meanwhile, back on Mars…

The Phoenix lander has, among other gadgets, 8 mini ovens that will be used, one at a time, over the course of its mission. The Mars Mission Homepage calls them bake and sniff because they gradually heat up samples of Martian soil and examine the gases that are produced.

A microscope is examining the soil too, by sprinkling soil onto a sticky silicone surface and taking photos of the soil particles smaller than the diameter of a human hair.

And while the first oven and the ‘scope are doing their thing, the digging arm has hit something hard and white in the surface near the lander.

Duh-duh-duummm.

The possibility of ice arises again. Of course, the Phoenix team here on Earth are being careful about making any rash statements – as they should – but the probe was sent to this particular region because satellite imagery indicated tundra-style ice very close to the surface.

There is a selection of videos & animations on this page demonstrating how the onboard microscope works, plus various views of the lander itself and the soil where digging is taking place. Very impressive stuff.

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