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The first sample of Martian dirt dumped onto the opening of the Phoenix lander's tiny testing oven failed to reach the instrument, and scientists said Saturday that they will devote a few days to trying to determine the cause.
Images taken Friday show soil resting on the screen over an open sample-delivery door of Phoenix's Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer, or TEGA, an instrument for identifying some key ingredients. The screen is designed to let through particles up to one-millimeter (0.04 inch) across while keeping out larger particles, in order to prevent clogging a funnel pathway to a tiny oven inside. An infrared beam crossing the pathway checks whether particles are entering the instrument and breaking the beam.