Clumpy Soil on Mars, What's a Lander to Do?

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Two weeks ago, the world marveled when the Phoenix survived a 420 million-mile space journey and landed on Mars, right where it was supposed to. Now it's expected to analyze Martian soil to determine whether there might have been life on that planet. The lander has a robotic arm that has scooped up Martian soil for analysis by instruments, including a miniature oven. But the dirt sample has turned out to be clumpier than the oven's filter could handle.  Michael Hecht heads one of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's two soil analysis team.




Warren Olney