Needles of the thermal and conductivity probe on NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander were positioned into the bottom of a trench called "Upper Cupboard" during Sol 86 (Aug. 21, 2008), or 86th Martian day after landing. This image of the conductivity probe after it was raised back out of the trench was taken by Phoenix's Robotic Arm Camera. The conductivity probe is at the wrist of the robotic arm's scoop.
The probe measures how fast heat and electricity move from one needle to an adjacent one through the soil or air between the needles. Conductivity readings can be indicators about water vapor, water ice and liquid water.
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.