It now lies inside the scoop, poised over an instrument called the Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer, or TEGA, where it will be dumped and sealed in for several days of analysis, the scientist said.
The TEGA will heat up the sample gradually to 1,000 degrees Celsius (1,832 Farenheit).
"I would guess by the end of next week we will be in a pretty good position to tell you our first assessment of this soil, and if we are lucky enough to get some white material in there, to figure out what it is too," Smith said. (Image NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/Max Planck Institute)
We will find out next week if the scooper, hermetic sealing and dirt frying worked once the dirt clumps, after being baked like brownies, is dumped out for closer examination. Can you imagine that stunning news? The scientific debate rages as to whether the ice evaporated after sun exposure going through sublimination which makes it a gas a not a liquid versus curmudgeonly others who are betting on the white crusty stuff just being salt. But then salt is necessary for life and is the residue of some sort of interaction between water and the dirt.
Scientists, however, want to do further tests on particles they are certain come from the planet's surface to rule out contamination from the lander before drawing conclusions about the Martian soil.
One of the tiny particles examined was very pale, but Mr Pike said it was almost certainly not a sample of the ice scientists are confident lies beneath the northern arctic plains where the lander touched down.
He said it was more likely a mineral and "could be a salt-like deposit or it could be quartz" as that amount of ice would have "sublimed" and turned into a gas before it could be photographed.
But that did not suggest ice was not present, he added, as ice and mineral deposits were frequently found together.
Of course, the existence of water or past water makes the penultimate mission seem closer as colonization of any planet or moon is dependent on solar energy and water. But this first mission only has 80 days/sols left to cook up some wondrous gourmet science discoveries.
Behavioral scientist and management psychologist, Phillip Harris, boldly describes reasons and resources that beckon from space for settlements. His 45th book is Space Enterprise: Living and Working Offworld in the 21st Century. This 400 page paperback is not available until August of this year.