This image shows the eight sharp tips of the NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander's Atomic Force Microscope, or AFM. The AFM is part of Phoenix's Microscopy, Electrochemistry, and Conductivity Analyzer, or MECA.
The microscope maps the shape of particles in three dimensions by scanning them with one of the tips at the end of a beam. For the AFM image taken, the tip at the end of the upper right beam was used. The tip pointing up in the enlarged image is the size of a smoke particle at its base, or 2 microns. This image was taken with a scanning electron microscope before Phoenix launched on August 4, 2007.
The AFM was developed by a Swiss-led consortium in collaboration with Imperial College London.
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.