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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: Expanding With the Cosmos

Using the Atacama Cosmology Telescope (ATC), a 6.5-meter microwave collector in Chile, cosmologists are piecing together the early history of the known universe. In an exclusive American Scientist interview, Arthur Kosowsky—a member of the ATC team and a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Pittsburgh—discusses how he is using ATC to reach back in time billions of years to search for gravitational waves that could verify inflation and reveal unprecedented details about how the cosmos was born.

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