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Phoenix samples Martian water
Posted: Fri, Aug 1, 2008, 9:23 AM ET (1323 GMT)
Phoenix Mars lander illustration (Univ. of Arizona) NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander spacecraft has confirmed the presence of water ice at its landing site in the planet's north polar regions, scientists announced Thursday. Phoenix put a sample of soil that contained ice into an instrument on the spacecraft that heated the sample and analyzed the composition of the vapors released in the process. That test confirmed that the ice was made of water. Water ice at or near the surface had been thought to exist for years, based on indirect observations by other spacecraft, but this is the first time the ice was directly sampled and tested. Getting the sample into the spacecraft's instrument proved difficult because the ice-rich sample stuck in the scoop, which surprised scientists. NASA also announced yesterday that it was extending the three-month prime mission of Phoenix, scheduled to end in late August, through the end of September. Phoenix has been on Mars since late May and continues to be in good health.
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