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Phoenix disappointed: the oven experiment has not yet yielded the discovery of water on Mars

The scientists of the operation estimate: if there was water in the sample, it must have evaporated when the sample that was taken out from under the surface of the ground, was exposed for several days to the Martian atmosphere until it was put into the Phoenix oven

The area that Phoenix excavated and took the soil sample from
The area that Phoenix excavated and took the soil sample from

In the last few days, the results of the operation of the oven in which a soil sample from the Martian soil was baked, for the purpose of analyzing the gases emitted from this sample, began to arrive. These results disappointed the scientists who expected to find water vapor in these gases as well. After the first failure to introduce the dirt sample into the Thermal and Evolved Gas Analyzer (TEGA) oven, the scientists hoped that its operation would eventually provide scientific results.

Last weekend they finally managed to get the sticky regolith off the Martian soil into the oven vent. However, the test waited on board the Phoenix for some time until the experiment could be started. It now seems probable beyond any doubt that the area where the Phoenix landed is deprived of water. Although the Phoenix has more means of discovering water that have not yet been tried.

On June 11, the Phoenix flight controllers found the solution in transferring the sticky lump of Martian soil to the oven. Over the weekend they were able to perform the first test on the sample, and everything seems to be functioning properly after heating the dirt to 35 degrees Celsius. At this temperature, if there was water in the sample it should have melted. In the second step, they heated the dirt to 175 degrees Celsius but no water vapor was detected in it.

The scientists are not surprised by the first results. The regolith sample rested on the Phoenix furnace lid for several days while scientists tried to find ways to understand why no particle fell inside the furnace. They estimate that every drop of water that was in the sample evaporated quickly in the heat of the sun and the thin atmosphere. Because the atmospheric pressure on Mars is so low, bare water ice cannot turn into liquid water but into vapor (skipping the liquid state of aggregation).

In the coming days, the scientists will heat TEGA again to a temperature of one thousand degrees Celsius. This degree of heat will cause the evaporation of the minerals that may bind the molecules of water, carbon dioxide or sulfur dioxide and use devices to measure the emitted gases. The scientists are convinced that even though the water was not discovered directly, it will be possible to find evidence of its existence in the next round of experiments.

For the news in Universe Today

10 תגובות

  1. Hanan:
    According to this argument, it was appropriate to call the project "Enidian" (this, by the way, was also appropriate in terms of the color :)

  2. Hanan, the Vikings didn't build spaceships, they were sailors!!

    (Although they sailed ships but not spaceships)

  3. Wait a minute, Dan... you want to tell me that all the NASA experts and the entire list of scientists who worked on the development of the Phoenix could develop were disposable ovens that didn't even manage to absorb a bit of soil into them, except after a few days of trials and fixes?

    Is the whole purpose of launching the Phoenix (as long as it is fixed and unable to move, which is already a failure in itself, in my opinion, in the entire development) to perform some experiments with disposable tools and mechanization and that's it? For this they invested millions of dollars ???

    After all, the technology has been around for at least 30 years, since Voyager. Why is the whole Phoenix experiment starting to look like a project given to high school students???

    I hope you get lost…

  4. It's really wrong that Phoenix disappointed. Really not right. What, she couldn't have poured some water on the soil sample and made the scientists here happy?
    She has no idea how much was built on her. But in the moment of truth she failed.

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