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SCIENCE IN THE NEWS DAILY

NASA Robot Scoops Martian Soil for First Time

from the San Diego Union-Tribune (Registration Required)

LOS ANGELES (Associated Press) - NASA's newest spacecraft got down and dirty on Mars, taking its first practice scoop of Martian soil ahead of the actual dig expected later this week, scientists said Monday.

The test dig made Sunday by the Phoenix Mars Lander's 8-foot-long robotic arm uncovered bits of bright specks in the soil believed to be ice or salt.

"We see this nice streak of white material," said Pat Woida, senior engineer at the University of Arizona, Tucson, which is directing the mission. "We don't know what this material is yet."

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PODCASTS: From Balloons to Space Stations: Studying Cosmic Rays

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Cosmic rays have mysterious qualities about them that scientists continue to research in order to better understand their origins and composition. Dr. Eun-Suk Seo, a professor of physics at the University of Maryland, and her colleagues, fly enormous balloons as large as a football stadium and a volume of 40-million-cubic feet for extended periods over Antarctica to study particles coming from cosmic rays before they break up in the atmosphere.

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