The plucky probe, designed by Phoenix Principle Investigator Peter Smith and his ingenious team at the UA Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, includes cameras, microphones, a weather station and an easy-bake oven that can toast soil samples to test for water and carbon-combining compounds.
The UA crew hopes that in late May 2008, the Phoenix--which combines elements of previous unsuccessful Mars missions--will land near the planet's north pole, where it can dig through the soil and reach a buried ice layer to examine Martian water for the first time in an search to uncover whether the building blocks of life are present. Meanwhile, Back on Earth How would you like to preserve a little more wilderness in Southern Arizona? Congressman Raúl Grijalva introduced legislation last week to set aside 84,000 acres of the Coronado National Forest known as the Tumacacori Highlands as federally protected wilderness. The area, west of Pena Blanca Lake and north of the U.S.-Mexico border, includes areas such as the Pajarito Mountains, the Atascosa Mountains, Bear Valley and Apache Pass.
The designation would prevent new roads or development in the area, which the Friends of the Tumacacori Highlands describe as an "exceptional arena for the intermingling of sub-tropical and northern species of plants and animals, including the jaguar, elegant trogon, tropical kingbird and the five-striped sparrow." Our favorite? The five-striped sparrow, hands down.
Among the supporters of the plan: Friends of the Santa Cruz River, Republicans for Environmental Protection, Arizona Quail Alliance, Santa Cruz River Alliance, Rex Ranch, Sky Island Alliance, Tucson Audubon Society, the Sierra Club and the Arizona League of Conservation Voters.
Congress hasn't protected any area in Arizona with a wilderness designation in 17 years.
In related don't-let-'em-learn news: The Arizona Department of Education reports that 1,403 of the 11,931 people who applied for Arizona Adult Education couldn't prove they were in the country legally, so they were kept out of the program. And 30 of the 220 applicants for the Family Literacy Program also couldn't prove their legal status, so they won't be learning to read any time soon.
Those illegal immigrants may still be in the state, but by gum, at least they're gonna stay ignorant.
And remember how all those illegal immigrants were ripping off taxpayers by sticking us with the bills for child care? The Department of Economic Security reports that of the 13,700 applications for child care assistance, 86 were denied because they couldn't prove citizenship or legal residency. Don't you feel better now?
Dr. Tom Robinson of the prestigious Stanford University fed 63 preschoolers in Head Start centers a mix of McDonald's hamburgers, chicken nuggets and french fries, as well as store-bought milk, juice and carrots, according to an Associated Press report. Half the food was wrapped in McDonald's wrappers, and the other half was in a plain-brown wrapper.
Guess what? The kids always liked the food wrapped in McDonald's wrappers better, even when it was just boring old carrots.
The study is yet another testament to the wonders of advertising. Just reading the story made us ravenous for two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame-seed bun!