NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander inserted the four needles of its thermal and conductivity probe into Martian soil during the 98th Martian day, or sol, of the mission and left it in place until Sol 99 (Sept. 4, 2008).
The Robotic Arm Camera on Phoenix took this image on the morning of Sol 99 while the probe's needles were in the ground. The science team informally named this soil target "Gandalf."
The thermal and conductivity 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 probe is part of Phoenix's Microscopy, Electrochemistry and Conductivity suite of instruments.
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.