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Mars Lander Fills Test Oven with Pinch of Soil

The Phoenix Mars Lander has successfully filled its scientific oven with clumpy Martian soil, and scientists expect to close the door and begin their analysis within a few days.

The lander had trouble getting the oven to fill because the soil clods refused to sift through a screen over the oven's opening. After repeated attempts and a last try at vibrating the screen, they succeeded in coaxing soil through the screen and into the oven.

The tiny oven is one of eight aboard the Phoenix Mars Lander. The high-temperature ovens are part of a key scientific instrument that will analyze Martian ice and soil and determine whether organic compounds, the building blocks of life, are present.

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PODCAST & VIDEO: Engineering Around Extreme Events

Extreme events, such as super floods and hurricanes, are becoming more common, so civil engineers are trying to adapt civil infrastructure such as bridges to these unpredictable and sometimes devastating meteorological events. Engineer Ana Barros discusses how engineering can prepare us for extreme weather events, but also how changing climate and population conditions can affect the ability of infrastructure to hold up over time.

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