Shiny Happy Spaceships
Now, the lander's robotic arm has finished freeing itself from its restraints, a crucial step along the way to sampling the Martian soil and ice.
Two pins held the arm in place and prevented it from being damaged by vibrations during Phoenix's launch and landing. NASA commanded the arm to start the process of freeing itself on Wednesday morning PDT (Wednesday afternoon GMT).
The arm has now completely freed itself from the pins and a sterile wrapping called the biobarrier, which prevented the arm from being contaminated with Earth microbes prior to launch, the Phoenix team reported at a press briefing on Thursday.
"Our arm was cooped up in our restraints for 14 months," Phoenix team member Matthew Robinson of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, US, said during the briefing. "It was raring to go, it's busted loose now, and we're ready to go – we're excited."