Washington, July 2 : NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander has scooped up little piles of 'almost perfect' icy soil from the surface of the Red Planet, which would be analyzed further.
The icy soil has been scraped up from the "Snow White" trench, which Phoenix had enlarged on June 28, the 33rd Martian day, or sol, of the mission.
The robotic arm on Phoenix used the blade on its scoop to make 50 scrapes in the icy layer buried under subsurface soil.
The robotic arm then heaped the scrapings into a few 10- to 20-cubic centimeter piles, or piles each containing between two and four teaspoonfuls.
Scraping created a grid about two millimeters deep.
After seeing the scrapings in Surface Stereo Imager images on June 29, the scientists agreed that they had "almost perfect samples of the interface of ice and soil," and commanded the robotic arm to pick up some scrapings for instrument analysis.
The scoop will sprinkle the fairly fine-grained material first onto the Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer, or TEGA.
The instrument has tiny ovens to bake and sniff the soil to assess its volatile ingredients, such as water. It can determine the melting point of ice.
Phoenix's overall goals are to: dig to water frozen under subsurface soil, touch, examine, vaporize and sniff the soil and ice to discover the history of water on Mars, determine if the Martian arctic soil could support life and study Martian weather from a polar perspective.