NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander is enlarging a trench informally named "Snow White" to prepare a cleaned-off area at the top of a subsurface layer of hard material, possibly ice-rich soil.
This image taken by Phoenix's Surface Stereo Imager camera on July 13th, the 48th Martian day, or sol, since landing, shows the trench after the previous sol's work by the lander's Robotic Arm. The size of the trench in the image is about 30 centimeters (12 inches) by 20 centimeters (8 inches). A shadow of Phoenix's helical antenna falls across the scene, which is on the northeast side of the lander. The image was taken at 3:32 p.m. local solar time at the Phoenix landing site.
The Phoenix team plans to use the arm to extend the trench about 15 centimeters (6 inches) further, working toward the lander, in order to have enough surface area both for testing use of the powered rasp on the back of the scoop and also to use a combination of rasping and scooping to gather a sample of ice-rich material for delivering to the Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer.
The Phoenix Mission is led by the University of Arizona, Tucson, on behalf of NASA. Project management of the mission is by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. Spacecraft development is by Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver.
Photojournal Note: As planned, the Phoenix lander, which landed May 25, 2008 23:53 UTC, ended communications in November 2008, about six months after landing, when its solar panels ceased operating in the dark Martian winter.