NASA just announced that the Phoenix Lander has successfully scooped up a Martian water ice sample and placed it in its oven for scientific analysis. "Mars Odyssey discovered this ice six years ago, but we've now touched it and tasted it, which is something that hasn't been done before," said a scientist at today's press conference. The sample has been dubbed the "Wicked Witch" (because it's meeeelting, meeeelting-get it?) and it will continue to be analyzed over the course of the coming weeks as data trickles in. Exciting, exciting stuff from this very successful mission. More details and new hi-res surface images to follow.
The team has also decided to extend the mission to the end of the fiscal year to September 30, to a full 126 martian Sols (was scheduled for 90 sols initially) at the cost of another $2 million. A new full-color, 360° panorama should hit the web soon as well, and they've just started work on an even larger one that will be almost a gigabyte in size and will take 100 satellite passes to download.
Here's the panorama:
Click for the full version (it's a delicious 11MB).
Keeping with the fairytale theme, the ice sample came from the "Dodo Goldilocks" trench you can see here in this shot of the robot arm's workspace. The two trenches outlined in yellow will be new trenches dug as part of the mission's extension.