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MECA 
Four wet chemistry laboratory units will characterize Martian soil chemistry with a suite of electrochemical sensors.
Four wet chemistry laboratory units will characterize Martian soil chemistry with a suite of electrochemical sensors.
A rotating sample wheel delivers Martian dust to the optical microscope and atomic force microscope.
A rotating sample wheel delivers Martian dust to the optical microscope and atomic force microscope.
The thermal and electrical conductivity properties of the Martian soil will be explored with a 4-prong probe on the end of the robotic arm.
The thermal and electrical conductivity properties of the Martian soil will be explored with a 4-prong probe on the end of the robotic arm.

Microscopy, Electrochemistry, and Conductivity Analyzer (MECA) characterizes the soil of Mars by dissolving small amounts of soil in water, the wet chemistry lab (WCL) determines the pH, the abundance of minerals such as magnesium and sodium cations or chloride, bromide and sulfate anions, as well as the conductivity and redox potential. Looking through a microscope, MECA examines the soil grains to help determine their origin and mineralogy. Needles stuck into the soil determine the water and ice content, and the ability of both heat and water vapor to penetrate the soil.

MECA contains four single wet chemistry labs containing four single-use beakers, each of which can accept one sample of martian soil. Phoenix's Robot Arm (RA) will initiate each experiment by delivering a small soil sample to one beaker, which is ready and waiting with a pre-warmed and calibrated soaking solution. The optical and atomic-force microscopes complement MECA's wet chemistry experiments. With images from these microscopes, scientists will examine the fine detail structure of soil and water ice samples. Prior to observation by each of the microscopes, samples are delivered by the RA to a wheel containing sixty-nine different substrates.

MECA's final instrument, the thermal and electrical conductivity probe, will be attached at the "knuckle" of the RA. The probe will probably consist of three small spikes that will be inserted into the ends of an excavated trench. In addition to measuring temperature, the probe will measure thermal properties of the soil that affect how heat is transferred, providing scientists with better understanding of surface and atmospheric interactions. Using the same spikes, the electrical conductivity will be measured to indicate any transient wetness that might result from the excavation.


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