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J Am Soc Mass Spectrom. 2008 Oct;19(10):1377-83. doi: 10.1016/j.jasms.2008.07.015. Epub 2008 Jul 24.

Phoenix Mars Mission--the thermal evolved gas analyzer.

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University of Texas at Dallas, Richardson, Texas 75080, USA.


The Phoenix spacecraft that was launched to Mars in August 2007 landed safely on the Martian northern arctic region on May 25, 2008. It carried six experiments to study the history of water on the planet and search for organic molecules in the icy subsurface Martian soil. The spacecraft is a lander with an arm and scoop designed to dig a trench though the top soil to reach an expected ice layer near the surface. One of the instruments on board is the thermal evolved gas analyzer (TEGA), which consists of two components, a set of eight very small ovens that will heat samples of the ice soil mixtures from the trench to release imbedded gases and mineral decomposition products, and a mass spectrometer that serves as the analysis tool for the evolved gases, and also for measurements of the composition and isotopic ratios of the gases that comprise the atmosphere of Mars. The mass spectrometer is a miniature magnetic sector instrument controlled by microprocessor-driven power supplies. One feature is the gas enrichment cell that will increase the partial pressures of the noble gases in an atmosphere sample by removing all the active gases, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen, to improve the accuracy of their isotopic ratio measurements.

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