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Will Phoenix's next furnace experiment be the last?

The scientists and engineers at NASA, the University of Arizona, and Lockheed Martin fear that the ovens will short out again like it did last time, so they are looking for an ice-rich sample, and a way to get it quickly into the oven before the ice evaporates

Photo from the deck of the Phoenix
Photo from the deck of the Phoenix

The shaking done to the evaporating Arctic soil sample into the Phoenix oven (Thermal and Evolved Gas Analyzer or TEGA for short) apparently caused a short in the circuit that may occur again the next time the oven is turned on, and this may have bad results. A group of engineers and scientists gathered to assess the condition of the TEGA facility after the short that was discovered in the device, and came to this discouraging conclusion.

"Since there is no way to estimate the likelihood of another short occurring, we take the traditional approach and treat the next soil sample to be tested at TEGA as the last," said Peter Smith, Principal Investigator of the Phoenix Project. Therefore, the team does everything so that the next sample that is transferred to the oven is rich in ice.

The short occurred after furnace #4 was shaken several times over several days in order to break up the sticky soil so it could reach into the furnace. Transferring to any of the furnaces requires a shaking action and turning on the shaker in either furnace will also cause furnace number 4 to vibrate, which may cause another short.

A sample from an excavation known as "Snow White" that was taken out by the Phoenix digger at the beginning of the week apparently dried out, therefore the soil particles were transferred to the optical microscope. If there is any material left on the spoon it will be transferred to the wet chemical lab on Sunday.

The task force spent Friday, American Independence Day, resting. Skeleton crews at the University of Tucson and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and the Lockheed-Martin Space Systems Center in Denver, Colorado continued to monitor the spacecraft and its instruments during the vacation.

The spacecraft continued in any way to carry out pre-programmed scientific commands, read atmospheric data and took panoramic and other images.

Once the sample is submitted to the chemical experiment, the highest priority will be to obtain an ice-rich sample for a number zero oven. The Phoenix team will perform experiments and trial runs so that the devices can move the ice-rich sample quickly, with the aim of preventing materials from the sample from evaporating during the process, and that the solid ice will not evaporate.

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27 תגובות

  1. The term PSI (pounds per square inch) gained public publicity thanks to the inability of NASA scientists to convert units.

    NASA scientists obviously know how to convert units very well and have no mental or technical problem to do it naturally. The meaning is, of course, that there are mistakes that are not related to intelligence or mental abilities and they will happen even to the best. Such mistakes are almost impossible to avoid and technology is supposed to bridge these gaps between forgetfulness and laziness or inattention. It is quite possible that this is what things are meant to be. Either way, the goal was not achieved and the bottom line is failure to achieve goals is failure. From all my mistakes I learned.

  2. I wonder how much budget is required of them to create a true simulation of the real gravity of Mars.
    NASA got stricter in its tests. A satellite was lost to Mars because they didn't know how to match metric and English measurements. The price was only 125 million dollars about eight years ago.
    (CNN) — NASA lost a $125 million Mars orbiter because one engineering team used metric units while another used English units for a key spacecraft operation,

  3. With all due respect, and no disrespect, I think you are a little underestimating NASA's strictest tests.. They have such a large budget that I would not be surprised if, in addition to computer simulations, they created a simulation of Mars and tested on it a replica of the Phoenix in all its features.

  4. for engineers
    It is possible that the planners did not calculate the excess acceleration forces created by the shaking on the surface of Mars. Because Mars has 0.4 of the gravity on Earth.
    Acceleration forces on Earth's surface are more than twice as damped as on Mars because of the higher weight on Earth's surface.
    It is possible that they did not calculate the intensity of the earthquake which should be more than double on the surface of Mars.

  5. In my opinion there is nothing here.
    Criticism is a positive thing and it is usually voiced here in a polite way and not in a belligerent manner. To say "failure" is a form of criticism, and if the criticism is correct, then it is constructive criticism. If at the end of this project we do not know the amount of water in the red soil in the landing area, then it is an operational failure. There is a goal and there is research and there is the results stage. If something goes wrong there, then there is a failure. It's okay to make mistakes and it happens. I never yelled things like "Stupid Americans" or "Blow off heads at NASA". I am pointing to the simple fact that the most important question was not answered with an answer.

    Compliments should be given when necessary (and necessary) and criticism should be voiced when necessary.

  6. To Roy
    I laughed.
    In short, come and keep our fingers crossed for NASA scientists in their difficult time.
    Have a good evening
    Sabdarmish Yehuda

  7. Yehuda,

    Another story can be told according to the same version.

    The Americans had a problem with the brakes of the M-16 in the swamps of Vietnam. Their engineers tried to overcome the problem. The day came when the Americans and the Vietnamese met, and the Americans asked how they overcame the problem. The Vietnamese answered them, "Simple, we fought with sticks."

    This is a really great problem solving strategy.

    By the way, the story you told is indeed not true. The Americans decided to use a pencil as well, but since a broken tip is a real danger in microgravity conditions, and could easily catch fire in certain cases, they tried to find other solutions. The space pen was invented by a civil society that did not receive government funding. In short, the American engineers have some common sense.

    I'm sure that comments like yours, Ami's and Mr. Ben-Ner's have provided important insights in the past. And at the same time, it's hard for me not to feel that there is a typical 'Alihum' reaction here, without knowing the set of problems that NASA engineers faced when they tried to provide the most effective device for exploring the planet within the existing technological and budgetary limitations.

  8. I don't know if the story I'm about to tell is true or not, but an incident that happened like this was:-
    The Americans discovered that ballpoint pens may not work in a vacuum or in weightless conditions, therefore a number of scientists received a task to design a pen that would be able to mark even in weightless and empty conditions. The day will come when the Americans and the Russians will meet and where the Americans asked the Russians how they overcame the problem, the Russians answered: "Simple, we use a pencil".
    In short, let's respond to the best of our amateur understanding, and I agree with Ami Bachar and others, that sometimes such responses have proven themselves in the past.

    good evening
    Sabdarmish Yehuda

  9. A. Ben-Ner,

    Suppose they did the experiment, what would they learn from it?

    Assuming the seeds did germinate, would they grow normally? This is not something that can be discovered inside the mini-greenhouse. Didn't they lack minerals? Certain basics? Certain plants can grow well even without these factors. others don't.
    All such an experiment would show, if successful, is that the seeds of a plant or two can indeed germinate.

    Now what if he didn't succeed?
    Would we learn from this which compounds exist in the Martian soil? In what concentrations? What is the ground temperature? Is there any water in it at all? Maybe the seeds spoiled during the journey in space as a result of the cosmic radiation (a reasonable scenario, as far as I understand)? Maybe the robotic arm that sows them didn't dig deep enough grooves in the Martian soil it picked up? Or if you plant them directly in the ground and cover them with a mini-greenhouse, maybe it's not sealed enough? And if it is sealed enough, can we be sure that the CO2 and oxygen are in the right concentrations inside it?

    The answer to all or most of these is no. All we would learn is that seeds of a certain species do not grow in the Martian soil, in a makeshift mini-greenhouse, after a long journey through space.

    In short, even if we ignore the enormous engineering effort needed to send such a robotic mini-greenhouse to Mars, it simply wouldn't provide us with the same detailed answers that sending a robotic laboratory does. Such a laboratory can read the soil samples, judge which compounds are in it, and understand from this whether or not there is even a preliminary possibility of growing plants on Mars. Any experiment beyond that requires an engineering investment in the creation of a different and much more sophisticated research tool.

  10. Katzvan-ner, think for a second what size kit you are asking for and you will realize that it is much more complicated than you think, much more than an oven that already exists and does not need to be reinvented

  11. Please allow me to join the reviewers "from the bird's eye view" according to Michael and ask:
    If the goal is to test the feasibility of growing vegetables on Mars, why didn't they send a "mini-greenhouse" facility + vegetable seeds there?. The robot would sow, cover, the seed, in a mini greenhouse and wait several days.
    Isn't it more simple and to the point?
    It is possible that they, the Americans, despite all their great wisdom, their economic power and their tremendous academic and technological ability, lack something small, which I would define as "common sense" or "the wisdom of the segment". It means the simple and direct act. which sometimes may also, in the appropriate dose, yield positive results.

  12. Rami, listen, I must know how much you got on the psychometric test?... I haven't seen so many words from the test for a long time... Oh, and in our eyes, every task has goals, they didn't really send the robot just for that, as it says, it's an oven 4, so it implies that there are at least 3 more, so let's say In the worst case it is "only" a 25% failure and it seems to me that this is acceptable overall...

  13. Larry,
    The distance is smaller than you imagine. Not only geographically, but mainly in terms of education. The scientists in Israel stand on any global scale in general and on a par with NASA scientists in particular. The disdain in your words (even if it is not polite on a personal level) is a fundamental mistake that probably stems from unclear feelings of inferiority towards the Gentiles.

    Moreover, from Sabdarmish's response I learned that he actually insists that the problem can be attacked both from a bird's eye view (as seen from a distance) and by non-experts. This is legitimate and has proven itself in the past. I find the analogy to that chess player who forgot to start the clock And lost technically, a beautiful and correct analogy.

    Greetings friends,
    Ami Bachar

  14. to Remy
    I think I understood your words, we must not comment on space flights, the failure of Columbia, the explosion of Challenger, the reasons for the destruction of Beit Rishon, and the failure to save the Jews of the Holocaust because we were not there.
    Forgive me if I disagree with you, and think that it is precisely the right of all my science commenters to do so.

    Good Day
    Sabdarmish Yehuda

  15. Yehuda Sabradimish
    You are very wrong. The example you gave is not even close to the truth. You who are sitting here in Zion, who are not involved in even a hint of what is going on with NASA scientists, you can give the example of the layman who sees things that the expert does not.
    The distance is so great, not only geographically, but in terms of education, resources and training that you would do well to fill your mouth with the Sig exam for silent wisdom.

  16. Dear Friends,
    We have already reached Mars before. With all due respect to the complexity of the matter, that is not the goal. There are goals for this robot and where it fails is failure. nothing less and nothing more. It's a shame that it will take a long time until the next time, when they will surely re-engineer the system so that it will allow preventing malfunctions that were not foreseen today.

    It's disappointing to see all this technology arrive on another planet, settle down and settle down and in the end produce no results. The most interesting result (whether there is water on Mars or not) will probably not get an answer, if the problem repeats itself. And that, in my opinion, is a failure.

    Shabbat Shalom,

  17. Yehuda,

    My reaction also stems to a certain extent from the sadness of the lack of success so far in discovering water in the oven.

    Let's hope he succeeds.


  18. To Roy

    You are a little hard on me. I already wrote in my response to Rami:-

    "And of course we mustn't forget that we are smart after the fact, so we might not have discovered it before sending Phoenix into space." End quote.
    So I am aware of the problematic nature of my response. So first of all I apologize to the hardworking NASA scientists.
    But, there is no doubt that my reaction stems from the sadness of the failure of the stove experiment.
    Let us both hope that the last experiment will be successful, and that a savior will come to Zion (and to Mars, water)
    Good Day
    Sabdarmish Yehuda.

  19. He who does not try will never make a mistake, error and correction lead to success.
    Kudos to NASA and its scientists and researchers.

  20. Yehuda,

    Please remove the word 'even' from your penultimate sentence. They planned to test the structure of the materials in the Martian soil, and they are also doing well in this so far. Water is a separate issue.

    And come on, you're an engineer yourself. You know how complex this work is, and how many requirements and constraints need to be taken into account when designing a device - all the more so when it is supposed to fly in space for several years, land on a foreign planet and conduct tests with the help of a robot that even doctoral students find difficult to perform manually.

    So what you are doing here is not criticism. It's steam, and it's hindsight, which is the easiest thing to do. I think it simply demeans you, not to mention the respect of the engineers who worked hard on it and didn't have to throw words in the air about what had to be done and how to do it, but actually built the device with all the existing engineering limitations.

    Shabbat Shalom,


  21. to Remy

    Didn't it happen to you as a person sitting on the sidelines to see and solve problems of smarter people than you?
    In the first class of my academic studies in management, the lecturer lectured us on this very fact and his words are etched in my memory to this day. He said "You can be the smartest managers in the world, but you always have to expect that someone who doesn't understand anything will see things that you didn't see. Simply, because those outside the system see things that you don't consider.
    For example, a chess champion who forgot to start the clock and therefore lost the game, after all anyone who understands something about chess would have played better than him.
    And of course we must not forget that we are smart after the fact, so we might not have discovered it before sending Phoenix into space.

    In short, please don't underestimate the fans.

    So kudos to NASA, who planned to check the structure of the materials in the Martian soil, but, they failed to check even if there is water there.

    And regarding the Qassams, if anyone is in the system and is willing to share with me, I will be ready to accept the challenge.

    Have a good day
    Sabdarmish Yehuda

  22. Yehuda,

    The oven is designed not only to find water vapor, but also to decipher the complex of materials and components in the Martian soil. This can be done through a controlled increase of the temperature up to 1000-2000 degrees Celsius.

    Should they have made a simple oven to test the evaporation of water at the temperature of the surface of Mars? It is possible. But such an oven takes up space and requires additional planning of the entire robot. And who would have guessed that the soil sample would be so moist that it would stick to the surface next to the stove? Or will it be short? It is impossible to plan everything in advance when you have such critical limitations of space and energy.

    Still, a little cheering. I don't see Operation Phoenix as a failure, or even close to a failure. I see it as an incredible success - to send a robotic laboratory to Mars that investigates the chemical composition of this planet, which has occupied the imagination and thought of humans for thousands of years. And even if one detail doesn't work out, I'm sure that in the next expedition they will prepare for it accordingly.

    Shabbat Shalom to all of us,


  23. To the two gentlemen above, it's a shame you're not there - in NASA, you probably could have saved the project. Don't trust those American morons over there.
    If you are already so smart, come and solve the problem of the Qassams here with us.

  24. Another proof that there is no substitute for a human being..especially in tasks of this type.

  25. I agree with Ami Bachar's words.
    In addition, it seems to me that they designed the experiment in a complicated way for no reason.
    They could have planned the experiment differently, because if the problem is that the ice evaporates before putting it in the oven (which was to be expected!), then why do you even need the oven? All you have to do is scrape the ground and check what evaporates there - is it water vapor , Matan, carbon dioxide, or maybe something else.
    And as I wrote in response to a previous article on this topic that they won't tell us about growing vegetables on Mars and other nonsense because as it seems right now, we apparently have a failure here.

    Have a quiet weekend
    Sabdarmish Yehuda

  26. If the oven experiment is not successful, the project will be a failure. Not much can be learned from panoramic images and light microscopy analysis. It will be very unfortunate if, God forbid, this experiment also fails like the previous ones because it will take several years until the next spacecraft is prepared to land on Mars and the real questions will still remain unanswered.

    I hope NASA now has a better understanding of how to design the sampling robot so that next time such mishaps do not happen again.

    Greetings friends,
    Ami Bachar

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