TUCSON, Ariz. – NASA's new robot on Mars has reached out and touched the soil for the first time, leaving behind a striking footprint-like impression, scientists said Sunday.
The Phoenix Mars Lander's robotic arm was making a test run, just one week after its landing. The spacecraft, which is also its own laboratory, will soon start scooping up soil and ice and running tests on it.
"This first touch allows us to utilize the robotic arm accurately," said David Spencer, Phoenix's surface mission manager at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
"We are in a good situation" for the future testing, he said.
NASA on Saturday showed sharp images of what appeared to be ice exposed under the lander. The mission's main goal is to test ice for evidence of organic compounds that are the chemical building blocks of life.
The University of Arizona in Tucson is leading and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory is managing the three-month scientific mission.