Wed, May 28, 2008
Stuck Covering Not Expected To Pose Problem
NASA's Phoenix Lander is ready to begin moving its robotic arm,
first unlatching its wrist and then flexing its elbow. Mission
scientists at JPL are eager to move Phoenix's robotic arm, for that
arm will deliver samples of icy terrain to their instruments made
to study this unexplored Martian environment.
The team sent commands for moving the arm Tuesday morning to
NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter for relay to Phoenix. However,
the orbiter did not relay those commands to the lander, so arm
movement and other activities are now planned for Wednesday. The
orbiter's communication-relay system is in a standby mode.
NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter is available for relaying
communications between Earth and Phoenix. Commands to be sent to
the lander Wednesday morning include taking more pictures of the
surroundings and making the first movements of the mission's
crucial robotic arm.
A covering that had shielded the arm from microbes during its
last few months before launch had not fully retracted on landing day, but it moved
farther from the arm Monday.
"The biobarrier had relaxed more and allows more clearance, but
it was not a major concern either way," said Fuk Li, manager of the
Mars Exploration Program at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory,
During the next three months, the arm will dig into soil near
the lander and deliver samples of soil and ice to laboratory
instruments on the lander deck. Following today's commands, its
movements will begin with unlatching the wrist, then moving the arm
upwards in a stair-step manner.
Phoenix principal investigator Peter Smith of the University of
Arizona was delighted with new images of the workspace. "The
workspace is ideal for us because it looks very diggable. We're
very happy to see just a few rocks scattered in the digging
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