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NASA Mars Space

Phoenix Mars Lander To Begin Rasping Ice Shavings 80

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the can't-wait-to-sand-it dept.
Rob writes with an excerpt from an article at spacefellowship.com: "A powered rasp on the back of the robotic arm scoop of NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander is being tested for the first time on Mars in gathering sample shavings of ice. The lander has used its arm in recent days to clear away loose soil from a subsurface layer of hard-frozen material and create a large enough area to use the motorized rasp in a trench informally named 'Snow White.' The Phoenix team prepared commands early Tuesday for beginning a series of tests with the rasp later in the day. Engineers and scientists designed the tests to lead up to, in coming days, delivering a sample of icy soil into one of the lander's laboratory ovens. 'While Phoenix was in development, we added the rasp to the robotic arm design specifically to grind into very hard surface ice,' said Barry Goldstein, Phoenix project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. 'This is the exactly the situation we find we are facing on Mars, so we believe we have the right tool for the job. Honeybee Robotics in New York City did a heroic job of designing and delivering the rasp on a very short schedule.'" I still can't get enough of pictures of a little hunk of metal on Mars.
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Phoenix Mars Lander To Begin Rasping Ice Shavings

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  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Wednesday July 16, 2008 @08:00AM (#24211049)
    And you don't even get cherry flavoring.
  • Sublimation? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by WmLGann (1143005) on Wednesday July 16, 2008 @08:00AM (#24211053) Homepage
    I thought I read that the first ice that was uncovered sublimated over night. In fact I recall that was what made the scientists sure that the white rocks were ice. I would think that shavings made by a rasp (rather, a 5-figure space age rasp-like device developed by a subcontractor that wasn't Craftsman or Snap-on) would sublimate rather quickly. What am I missing?
    • Re:Sublimation? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Nyago (784496) on Wednesday July 16, 2008 @08:16AM (#24211207) Homepage
      From Phoenix's Twitter page [twitter.com]:

      MarsPhoenix: Team wants to see how quickly test shavings sublimate (turn to vapor) to help them estimate how quickly I need to move real samples to oven.

    • Re:Sublimation? (Score:5, Informative)

      by necro81 (917438) on Wednesday July 16, 2008 @08:17AM (#24211221) Journal
      The sublimation they noticed was subtle [space.com], not total. The ice the rover uncovered didn't sublimate completely away, it just diminished enough for them to notice it. In this case, they'll gather the sample and process it quickly enough that they'll still have a fair bit to work with.
    • Re:Sublimation? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by loafula (1080631) on Wednesday July 16, 2008 @08:21AM (#24211271)

      I would hope that NASA considered this already. I imagine that the rasp will loosen a sufficient enough quantity so that the ice won't completely sublimate by the time it reaches the testing oven. Sure some will, but hopefully not all of it.

      Also, I believe what is important here is not necessarily the H2O ice itself, but what else is contained within it. Even if the ice sublimates, all the minerals, salts, and creepy-crawlies should be left behind.

    • by Iowan41 (1139959)
      You aren't missing anything. They have planned out how to quickly get the shavings of ice and permafrost into the wet lab as fast as possible, just because of that.
  • Honeybee Robotics in New York City did a heroic job of designing and delivering the rasp on a very short schedule

    Not to diminish the difficulty of getting something as complex as Phoenix onto the surface of Mars, but seriously how tricky is it to deliver a rasp on a short schedule? I can drive to the nearest Home Depot in about 10 minutes.

    • by eebra82 (907996)
      Quiet you, or the Russians might get ahead of us again!
    • by geomobile (1312099) on Wednesday July 16, 2008 @08:20AM (#24211253) Homepage
      Probably has to be custom made to fit all sorts of geometric, weight, material composition, etc. requirements. Plus a lengthy formal process for quality checking etc.

      What I find interesting is the ongoing semantic deterioration of the word heroic.

      All hail our heroic... ahm... rasp deliverers!
      • They are also modest and humble.

        There is absolutely no mention of all those technicians that gave their lives so that Phoenix Mars Lander could get it's rasp on time.
        We should all honor them with a moment of silence and contemplation about how many men and women are no longer with us cause they gave the ultimate sacrifice.
        Those greatest among us, that willingly fell in dozens - for each single one of the rasp's teeth.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by dotancohen (1015143)

        All hail our heroic... ahm... rasp deliverers!

        I for one welcome our heroic... OH FUCK IT!

      • by pragma_x (644215)

        Probably has to be custom made to fit all sorts of geometric, weight, material composition, etc. requirements.

        Exactly. They should've gone with the already proven, and venerable, inanimate carbon rod.

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by tolgyesi (1240062)
      I think the rasp from Home Depot is so cheap because we make up for tool simplicity with smart hands. The rover must do the job of human fingers and collect the material as well.
    • by mmontour (2208)

      Not to diminish the difficulty of getting something as complex as Phoenix onto the surface of Mars, but seriously how tricky is it to deliver a rasp on a short schedule? I can drive to the nearest Home Depot in about 10 minutes.

      According to a program I saw on the Discovery channel, the tool bit itself was actually purchased from a regular hardware store.

  • This is the second story today on the Mars Lander. How many more will we see? Sure it's interesting, but Phoenix can't be the only news on this site.

  • Picture quality (Score:3, Interesting)

    by FaytLeingod (964131) on Wednesday July 16, 2008 @08:32AM (#24211383)
    How do we get excellent color pics of the eguipment and surroundings and everytime there's some interesting stuff like the ice it's in black and white?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by brunokummel (664267)

      How do we get excellent color pics of the eguipment and surroundings and everytime there's some interesting stuff like the ice it's in black and white?

      How many colors one expects to see on a martian ice rasping ?

    • Re:Picture quality (Score:5, Informative)

      by Born2bwire (977760) on Wednesday July 16, 2008 @09:49AM (#24212703)
      Filters. The camera is not black and white but is actually sensitive to light across a wide spectrum. When they want to take a picture of a specific range of light, they use a filter to remove all the extraneous wavelengths. In this manner, they use a series of filters in the visible region to get an idea for the color content across narrow spectrums and use that to reproduce a full color image. Like the way that a monitor only uses red, green, and blue to reproduce a full color picture (although this works mainly because our eyes are mainly sensitive to those three colors).
      • Well crap, once again I can't read. I need sleepies. So why don't we make my post relevant that in addition to the standard light wavelength filters there is also a "fun" filter. Anything that isn't fun shows up in black and white so that you know you can ignore it. I mean, who wants to look at a picture of ice, I think we've seen that before.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    For some reason, every time I hear something about the Mars rovers I picture a couple of Daleks wandering about on a red desert.

    • For some reason, every time I hear something about the Mars rovers I picture a couple of Daleks wandering about on a red desert.

      Oh no! Not the Daleks! I think I hear them coming -- "Destroy...Destroy...Destroy..."

  • Pap Smear (Score:5, Funny)

    by Hoplite3 (671379) on Wednesday July 16, 2008 @08:36AM (#24211429)

    Wait ... Rasp ... Snow White's trench ... Mars is getting a pap smear! She's really into preventative medicine.

    • by steelfood (895457)

      I can't wait for videos of when they start drilling into it.

      • I can't wait for videos of when they start drilling into it.

        You are aware that they are doing all this with the hope of finding a few little green dwarfs, right?

  • by rarel (697734) on Wednesday July 16, 2008 @08:50AM (#24211643) Homepage
    Fuck everything, we're doing five blades!
  • I was hoping one there would be one of those dilapidated "Hawaiian Shave Ice" stands waiting for me when I got to Mars.
  • This won't hurt the poor thing's wrist will it?
  • oblig. (Score:2, Funny)

    by MRe_nl (306212)

    Phoenix was a NASA 'bot,
    But Phoenix is no more.
    What Phoenix thought was H20
    was H2SO4

  • Looking at the photo I have to ask: are those rubber bands holding down (what looks to be) the data cable on the top if the robotic arm?
    • Something like viton. There are some really exotic fluoropolymers about with remarkable properties, and they turn up all over the place especially in O-rings. I keep an emergency supply of viton rings for fixing weeps in metal to metal olive joints, as they can withstand everything from hotlubricating oil with additives through to vacuum with UV.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by fahrbot-bot (874524)

        Something like viton...they can withstand everything from hot lubricating oil with additives through to vacuum with UV.

        Sounds like a date I once had...

  • by digital bath (650895) on Wednesday July 16, 2008 @11:44AM (#24215009) Homepage

    There are some more good photos of the pre- and post-launch rover up at www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/phoenix/images/new-latest-images-collection_archive_1.html [nasa.gov]. I especially like this one [nasa.gov] - I'd thought the rover was quite a bit smaller than that!

  • The NASA press release, http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2008-133 [nasa.gov]

    The company that made the scoop and rasp, some very good pictures.
    http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2008-133 [nasa.gov]

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