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This animation shows NASA's Phoenix Lander's Robotic Arm scoop delivering a sample to the Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer (TEGA) and how samples are analyzed within the instrument.
TEGA has eight tiny ovens for measuring constituents in the atmosphere and in the soil, including possible organic constituents and the melting point of ice.
The scoop drops soil onto a fine mesh screen between TEGA's open doors. Some soil passes through the screen, which vibrates, into the throat of a funnel, where a spinning device called the 'whirligig' aids delivery into one half of a tiny oven. The soil sample is represented here by the white chip. The filled oven half then rotates and mates with the other oven half, closing the complete oven so sample heating can begin. The purple coil in this animation is the spring that moves the oven halves together.
Heating occurs at successively higher temperatures over several days. The energy required to heat the sample is measured to discover its thermal properties. Gases driven off during sample heating pass through tubing to the mass spectrometer for analysis.
Note that the exterior doors above the screen never close after sample delivery.
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.