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Mars Phoenix to Try Shake-and-Bake Once More

from the Los Angeles Times (Registration Required)

In a series of maneuvers that sounds more like cooking class than research on Mars, scientists said Monday they would try one more time to shake bits of the clumpy Martian soil into a test oven on NASA's Phoenix lander before switching to a backup strategy that called for dribbling the soil into the oven.

Scientists have failed in two attempts to inject soil from the Martian north pole into one of eight tiny ovens designed to test for organic compounds that would prove Mars' suitability for life.

The problem is, the opening to the oven is about the thickness of a pencil lead. The Martian soil is proving to be much clumpier -- cemented, in scientific terms -- than expected.

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