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23 June 2008

Phoenix updates: TEGA interview, new images

First off, Astrobiology Magazine has posted a great interview with the TEGA (Thermal and Evolved Gas Analyzer – the ovens) principal investigator Bill Boynton. The interview provides a really great overview of how TEGA works, and what the team is hoping to see. The interview pretty much answered all the lingering questions that I had, as well as some that people have posted in the comments recently. In particular, here’s …

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20 June 2008

It's official – Phoenix has found ice!

Some great news from Phoenix this morning: Phoenix has seen chunks of ice vaporize! (Press release via SpaceRef) The chunks of white material were sitting at the bottom of a trench the lander dug 4 days ago, and after looking at the trench again this morning, the chunks appear to vanished! Here’s an animation showing the changes – look for the vanishing chunks in the shadow on the left side …

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19 June 2008

House authorizes NASA funding increase over proposed budget

A quick NASA budget update: the House has approved a bill that authorizes a NASA budget of $20.2 billion for the next fiscal year, which is a significant increase over the White House’s proposed budget of $17.8 billion. The bill is likely to make it through the Senate intact as well. An important note: an authorization bill is not the same as actually giving out money. The bill “authorizes” a …

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11 June 2008

Phoenix has a bun (ok, soil) in the oven

Some exciting news from Phoenix: the soil that was too clumpy to make it into the TEGA (Thermal and Evolved-gas Analyzer) oven, even after vibrating the screen over 3 days, has made it through the screen, and the oven is full! It’s a little unclear when the soil fell through, and whether it was caused by the final round of vibration or because of some material change in the soil. …

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10 June 2008

Phoenix tries to shake 'n bake

An update on the soil that’s too clumpy to fall through the screen on the Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer (TEGA): to try to break up and loosen the soil, the engineers shook it for 7 minutes using vibrators inside TEGA. A few particles were detected to fall through the grate, but not enough to fill the oven and run a test Here’s an animation of the clumpy soil before and …

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9 June 2008

For Phoenix, size (and cohesion) matters

Phoenix put its engineering team’s creativity to the test this weekend when the first scoopful of martian soil dumped into one of the Thermal Emission and Gas Analyzer (TEGA) ovens failed to actually make it to the oven. Emily over at the Planetary Society has a great post on this, so I’ll just summarize here. The scoop of soil was from the top 2-4 centimeters of soil on the north …

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5 June 2008

Phoenix's Neighborhood (Part I): The Basin

If you’re like us, you’ve been refreshing the Phoenix news page constantly, looking for the next update from Mars. If you need a little catching up on what’s going on in the mission, here are some recent posts with updates. But with all the Phoenix coverage, there hasn’t been much talk about the context for the Phoenix landing site. What’s so cool about the north pole of Mars? The north …

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26 May 2008

HiRISE catches Phoenix landing!

The HiRISE camera on MRO managed to catch this amazing glimpse of the Phoenix lander as it descended: Photo credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona As the Phoenix news site points out, this is the first time an image has been taken of a spacecraft descending to the surface of Mars! Keep an eye out for updates. We’ll be posting more about Phoenix and the landing site in the next few days. …

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23 May 2008

Facebook for Scientists Launched

Check it out, facebook for scientists: http://www.researchgate.net/ This site just launched today, and it looks like it could be a really sweet tool for “early career scientists” – if it catches on. You can make a profile for yourself, a research vitae with descriptions of current research projects, upload publications, connect with other researchers, and probably much more. There are some hilarious facebook-ish aspects to this site, though: there’s a …

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16 May 2008

Space exists in your toothpaste.

One of our Nine Good Reasons for Space Exploration that we posted about last month was new technology – NASA programs are constantly pushing technology to its limits, and producing amazing new products in the process! In the post, we linked to a classic list of these so-called “spinoffs”, but NASA has recently put together a slick new way to learn about them. I’m talking about NASA @ Home and …

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