1. Headline
  1. Headline
By
updated 7/9/2008 6:19:07 PM ET 2008-07-09T22:19:07

NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander has hit a roadblock while trying to scoop a sample of dirt into one of its ovens.

  1. More from TODAY.com
    1. Joan Lunden: 10 things I wish I knew before I was diagnosed with breast cancer

      Doctors found two tumors in my right breast, both triple negative breast cancer, which means it’s more aggressive and fast...

    2. Derek Jeter dismisses 'most eligible bachelor' title: 'No, no, no'
    3. Don't sweat it! 5 ways to make sweatpants stylish (even at work)
    4. Jimmy Fallon and Tyler Perry face off in drone race
    5. Blake Shelton can’t see ‘how people perform without drinking alcohol’

For the past day, Phoenix has been using its robotic arm to scrape away at a hard icy surface on the red planet, trying to claw enough dirt out to pour into its onboard instrument. So far, it has only accumulated small piles of shavings, which it has not been able to scoop into the oven.

Phoenix robotic arm co-investigator Ray Arvidson of Washington University in St. Louis compared the probe's task to trying to scrape away at a sidewalk.

"We have three tools on the scoop to help access ice and icy soil," Arvidson said. "We can scoop material with the backhoe using the front titanium blade; we can scrape the surface with the tungsten carbide secondary blade on the bottom of the scoop; and we can use a high-speed rasp that comes out of a slot at the back of the scoop."

He said the team hoped to make some progress with a motorized rasp tool on Phoenix's robotic arm to help dig into the hard icy soil and ice deposits.

Though the probe managed to scrape away a bit of material from the surface, the small piles it accumulated were smaller than on previous digs, and it wasn't able to get any of the dirt into its scoop.

"It's like trying to pick up dust with a dustpan, but without a broom," said Richard Volpe, an engineer on Phoenix's robotic arm team from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

On Monday Phoenix performed 50 scrapes in a trench called "Snow White" it had previously dug. The material is intended to be analyzed in Phoenix's onboard oven instrument, the Thermal and Evolved Gas Analyzer (TEGA), to determine its chemical properties.

The $420 million Phoenix probe landed May 25 in the northern polar region of Mars in search of signs the environment could be habitable to life.

© 2013 Space.com. All rights reserved. More from Space.com.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments

More on TODAY.com

  1. Joan Lunden: 10 things I wish I knew before I was diagnosed with breast cancer

    From the moment you hear the words ‘You have breast cancer,’ it’s almost like you’re shot out of a cannon. Here are 10 things I wish I knew before I was diagnosed.

    10/1/2014 10:52:45 AM +00:00 2014-10-01T10:52:45
  2. Want to help? A guide to breast cancer charities

    In the United States an estimated 296,000 women and 2,240 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year and almost 40,000 women and 410 men will die of the disease. That's one death every 14 minutes, according to the National Breast Cancer Coalition.

    10/1/2014 10:45:11 AM +00:00 2014-10-01T10:45:11
  3. Samantha Okazaki / TODAY
  1. Texas Ebola patient had contact with kids

    Texas Gov. Rick Perry said in a press conference on Wednesday that “some school-age children” had been identified as having contact with the man diagnosed with the first case of Ebola in the United States. 

    10/1/2014 5:37:52 PM +00:00 2014-10-01T17:37:52
Exclusive
  1. TODAY

    Derek Jeter dismisses 'most eligible bachelor' title: 'No, no, no'

    10/1/2014 11:43:39 AM +00:00 2014-10-01T11:43:39
  1. Getty Images file

    Duchess Kate pulls out of charity event due to morning sickness

    10/1/2014 1:20:02 PM +00:00 2014-10-01T13:20:02
  1. TODAY

    Al, Jay Leno kick off USO comedy tour in Afghanistan

    10/1/2014 11:00:13 AM +00:00 2014-10-01T11:00:13