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  NASA's Phoenix mission to Mars (Page 1)

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Author Topic:   NASA's Phoenix mission to Mars
Robert Pearlman
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posted 07-31-2007 02:30 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
NASA release
Friday's scheduled launch of NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket has been postponed 24 hours. The two available launch times on Saturday, Aug. 4, are 5:26:34 a.m. and 6:02:59 a.m. EDT.

Due to a forecast for severe weather around the Kennedy Space Center launch pad in Florida on Tuesday afternoon, fueling of the second stage will not be completed. Although fueling is expected to be finished Wednesday morning, there is insufficient contingency time in the schedule to move forward with the launch on Friday.

NASA TV and Web coverage will begin at 3:30 a.m. on Saturday.

Robert Pearlman
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NASA update
Phoenix Set for Early Liftoff Saturday
August 4
Attempts: 5:26 and 6:02 a.m. EDT

Poised atop a Delta II rocket, the Phoenix spacecraft is on track for an early-morning liftoff and the beginning of its journey toward Mars. The weather forecast remains favorable, with only a 20 percent chance of violations at launch time. At the Phoenix prelaunch news conference on Thursday, NASA's Launch Director Chuck Dovale reported that the launch team is ready to go. Weather Officer Joel Tumbiolo said the forecast calls for scattered clouds, light ground and upper-level winds, and good visibility.

The launch preparations got back on track after a one-day delay because of severe weather in the vicinity of the launch pad on Tuesday that prevented the Delta II launch team from completing the fueling of the rocket's second stage.

The Phoenix Mars lander's assignment is to dig through the Martian soil and ice in the arctic region and use its onboard scientific instruments to analyze the samples it retrieves.

Both rocket and spacecraft have been undergoing final preparation at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 08-03-2007 10:08 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
NASA TV will begin its live coverage two hours before launch. Until then, you can watch a live view of Pad 17A at Cape Canaveral (RealPlayer required for link to work).

Robert Pearlman
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Phoenix Heads for Mars, Spacecraft Healthy

A Delta II rocket lit up the early morning sky over Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida as it carried the Phoenix spacecraft on the first leg of its journey to Mars. The powerful three-stage rocket with nine solid rocket motors lifted off at 5:26 a.m. EDT.

An hour and a half later, the Phoenix spacecraft separated from the Delta II and ground controllers at NASA's Deep Space Network acquired its signal and begun assessing its health. The solar panels that provide power for the mission's cruise phase deployed and Phoenix was pointed to best receive solar power and communicate with Earth.

The cruise phase will last for approximately 10 months as Phoenix makes its way to Mars. Targeted for touchdown in May 2008, Phoenix will travel 422 million miles in an outward arc from Earth to Mars. Once on the surface, it will determine whether icy soil on far northern Mars has conditions that have ever been suitable for life.

Robert Pearlman
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Lunar rock nut
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posted 08-04-2007 08:19 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Lunar rock nut   Click Here to Email Lunar rock nut     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Awesome launch and spectacular video. Phoenix rose from the flame and ash to the heavens. I noticed while watching the video and looking at the flame plume I saw the silhouette of a bird. This is between the drop of the first and second set of solid boosters.

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posted 08-04-2007 12:03 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for pdpel3   Click Here to Email pdpel3     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Just seen the evening news here in the UK, the take off looked great against the dark sky, just hope that it has a safe landing.

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Preparations for a May 25th landing on Mars:

Science Daily: NASA Spacecraft Fine Tunes Course For Mars Landing

NASA engineers have adjusted the flight path of the Phoenix Mars Lander, setting the spacecraft on course for its May 25 landing on the Red Planet.

"This is our first trajectory maneuver targeting a specific location in the northern polar region of Mars," said Brian Portock, chief of the Phoenix navigation team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. The mission's two prior trajectory maneuvers, made last August and October, adjusted the flight path of Phoenix to intersect with Mars.

NASA has conditionally approved a landing site in a broad, flat valley informally called "Green Valley." A final decision will be made after NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter takes additional images of the area this month.

kking
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posted 05-11-2008 05:28 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for kking   Click Here to Email kking     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The Phoenix landing press kit (PDF, 3mb) is online on JPL's website.

Robert Pearlman
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NASA release
NASA Phoenix Mission Ready for Mars Landing

NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander is preparing to end its long journey and begin a three-month mission to taste and sniff fistfuls of Martian soil and buried ice. The lander is scheduled to touch down on the Red Planet May 25.

Phoenix will enter the top of the Martian atmosphere at almost 13,000 mph. In seven minutes, the spacecraft must complete a challenging sequence of events to slow to about 5 mph before its three legs reach the ground. Confirmation of the landing could come as early as 7:53 p.m. EDT.

"This is not a trip to grandma's house. Putting a spacecraft safely on Mars is hard and risky," said Ed Weiler, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "Internationally, fewer than half the attempts have succeeded."

Rocks large enough to spoil the landing or prevent opening of the solar panels present the biggest known risk. However, images from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, detailed enough to show individual rocks smaller than the lander, have helped lessen that risk.

"We have blanketed nearly the entire landing area with HiRISE images," said Ray Arvidson of Washington University in St. Louis, chairman of the Phoenix landing-site working group. "This is one of the least rocky areas on all of Mars and we are confident that rocks will not detrimentally impact the ability of Phoenix to land safely."

Phoenix uses hardware from a spacecraft built for a 2001 launch that was canceled in response to the loss of a similar Mars spacecraft during a 1999 landing attempt. Researchers who proposed the Phoenix mission in 2002 saw the unused spacecraft as a resource for pursuing a new science opportunity.

Earlier in 2002, NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter discovered that plentiful water ice lies just beneath the surface throughout much of high-latitude Mars. NASA chose the Phoenix proposal over 24 other proposals to become the first endeavor in the Mars Scout program of competitively selected missions.

"Phoenix will land farther north on Mars than any previous mission," said Phoenix Project Manager Barry Goldstein of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

The solar-powered robotic lander will manipulate a 7.7-foot arm to scoop up samples of underground ice and soil lying above the ice. Onboard laboratory instruments will analyze the samples. Cameras and a Canadian-supplied weather station will supply other information about the site's environment.

"The Phoenix mission not only studies the northern permafrost region, but takes the next step in Mars exploration by determining whether this region, which may encompass as much as 25 percent of the Martian surface, is habitable," said Peter Smith, Phoenix principal investigator at the University of Arizona, Tucson.

One research goal is to assess whether conditions at the site ever have been favorable for microbial life. The composition and texture of soil above the ice could give clues to whether the ice ever melts in response to long-term climate cycles. Another important question is whether the scooped-up samples contain carbon-based chemicals that are potential building blocks and food for life.

The Phoenix mission is led by Smith with project management at JPL. The development partnership is with Lockheed Martin, Denver. International contributions are from the Canadian Space Agency; the University of Neuchatel, Switzerland; the universities of Copenhagen and Aarhus, Denmark; the Max Planck Institute, Germany; and the Finnish Meteorological Institute.

Robert Pearlman
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Planetary Society release
First Interplanetary Library Will Land on Mars: The Planetary Society Will Celebrate with Events Across the US

The Planetary Society's Visions of Mars DVD aboard Phoenix will land on Mars on May 25, 2008. This first of NASA's Scout missions is led by Principal Investigator Peter Smith at the University of Arizona. Attached to the deck of the Phoenix lander, the DVD includes a collection of 19th and 20th century science fiction stories, essays and art inspired by the Red Planet, as well as the names of more than a quarter million inhabitants of Earth.

"A Message from Earth to future Martian explorers, this DVD is The Planetary Society's gift to those who will someday expand the human presence to other worlds," said Louis Friedman, Executive Director of The Planetary Society, who conceived the idea for Visions of Mars. "We hope astronauts will one day retrieve this first Martian library and enjoy the visionary works and good wishes sent from our time to theirs."

Visions of Mars

Visions of Mars -- the first library on Mars -- contains materials that represent 20 nations and cultures. Visions of Mars includes works by The Planetary Society's co-founder Carl Sagan, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Kim Stanley Robinson, Arthur C. Clarke, Percival Lowell and many more.

Phoenix will be the first lander to explore the Martian arctic, touching down near 70 degrees north latitude. Designed to search for and study water ice, the spacecraft is a fixed lander with a suite of advanced instruments and a robotic arm that can dig half a meter into the soil. The Phoenix team hopes to uncover clues in the icy arctic soil about the history of near surface ice and the planet's potential for habitability.

"For more than a century, Mars has beckoned, inspiring tales of wonder and adventure," remarked Bruce Betts, Director of Projects for The Planetary Society. "Many men and women who now work in the space program first turned their eyes to the sky because of the childhood wonder kindled by the astronomical artists and science fiction authors featured on Visions of Mars."

The disk will appear in some of the calibration images that Phoenix takes to adjust its cameras, so people may be able to see it on the Martian surface.

The library should be able to last at least 500 years on Mars, so there will be plenty of time for a future generation to discover and enjoy the works included on the DVD.

Putting a spacecraft safely on Mars is hard and always carries risk. This will be The Planetary Society's second attempt to send Visions of Mars to its namesake planet. It was originally created by the Society to ride aboard Russia's Mars '96 spacecraft, which failed shortly after launch.

The Phoenix mission is led by Principal Investigator Peter H. Smith of the University of Arizona, with project management at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and a development partnership with Lockheed Martin Space Systems. International contributions for Phoenix are provided by the Canadian Space Agency, the University of Neuchatel (Switzerland), the University of Copenhagen, and the Max Planck Institute in Germany.

cspg
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posted 05-23-2008 09:54 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for cspg   Click Here to Email cspg     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Let's hope it really lands... and not crashes... The actual media frenzy is a real double-edged sword (I can already imagine the headlines if there's a new crater on Mars...).

Robert Pearlman
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posted 05-23-2008 10:07 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Chris Lewicki, Phoenix flight systems engineer, has had a long behind-the-scenes connection with collectSPACE. I spoke with him recently about his confidence for a safe landing.
I'm as confident as I can be; I'm certainly happy with where we're at. We've had many of our review boards tell us we've done everything a team can do to get ready, and these were members of the MER, Pathfinder and even Viking teams.
Phoenix has gone through a substantial amount of testing to ensure that they have the best chance of landing and operating successfully, he said.
We're very similar to the MPL design that wasn't able to land successfully, but we believe we understand our spacecraft a lot better, and have found many problems along the way that we were able to correct.

cspg
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posted 05-23-2008 10:14 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for cspg   Click Here to Email cspg     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I will read about Phoenix once it's on the planet...

Robert Pearlman
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Well, for others who desire to read more before the landing, here are two articles that share links between Phoenix and Apollo 11:
  • Aussie dish to receive first Mars images (The Age)
    Due to the alignment of the earth and Mars, the Canberra deep space communication complex (CDSCC) at Tidbinbilla, a NASA facility, will receive the first images sent back by the lander.

    This is not the first time that Canberra's deep space tracking facilities has been the first to receive data from another world.

    Back in 1969, the first pictures to be sent back from the moon by the Apollo 11 team were received and relayed by a facility at the ACT's Honeysuckle Creek, the predecessor to the modern Tidbinbilla facility.

  • It's time to resolve a Martian cliffhanger (MSNBC)
    Nearly 40 years ago, the Apollo 11 lunar module lowered itself to the moon's surface, precariously balanced on a stream of fire from its braking engine. The final seconds before contact were the most dramatic. And once the two astronauts were on the surface, their first words were not the phrases about Tranquility Base and the Eagle having landed.

    The first words were even more important to the guys turning blue at Mission Control: "OK, engine stop."

    On Sunday, the same sort of drama will play out on Mars. When NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander nears the Red Planet's surface, balanced on its own fountain of fire, the critical moment will be turning off the engine at the right moment -- neither too soon, nor too late. Then comes the next step: keeping it off.

Robert Pearlman
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Phoenix Landing Events Schedule
Times are Pacific Daylight and some are subject to change.

The times below for the Phoenix spacecraft events on May 25 are for a nominal scenario. Remaining navigational adjustments before May 25 could shift the times by up to about half a minute. In addition, the times for some events relative to others could vary by several seconds due to variations in the Martian atmosphere and other factors. For some events, a "give or take" range of times is given, covering 99 percent of possible scenarios from the atmospheric entry time. For events at Mars, times are listed in "Earth-receive time" (ERT) rather than "spacecraft event time" (SCET). This means the listed time incorporates the interval necessary for radio signals traveling at the speed of light to reach Earth from Mars. On landing day, May 25, the two planets are 275 million kilometers apart (171 million miles), which means it takes the signal 15 minutes and 20 seconds to reach Earth. For some spacecraft events, engineers will not receive immediate radio confirmation.
  • Trajectory correction maneuver opportunity (TCM6X), 8:46 a.m.
  • News briefing, noon
  • Begin non-commentary live television feed from JPL control room, 3 p.m.
  • Begin commentated live television feed from JPL control room, 3:30 p.m.
  • Propulsion system pressurization, 4:16 p.m.
  • Begin "bent-pipe" relay relay (continuous transmission of Phoenix data as it is received) through NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft to Goldstone, Calif., Deep Space Network station, 4:38 p.m.
  • Green Bank, W. Va., radio telescope listening for direct UHF from Phoenix, 4:38 p.m.
  • Cruise stage separates, 4:39 p.m.
  • Spacecraft turns to attitude for atmospheric entry, 4:40 p.m.
  • Spacecraft enters atmosphere, 4:46:33 p.m.
  • Likely blackout period as hot plasma surrounds spacecraft, 4:47 through 4:49 p.m.
  • Parachute deploys, 4:50:15 p.m., plus or minus about 13 seconds.
  • Heat shield jettisoned, 4:50:30 p.m., plus or minus about 13 seconds.
  • Legs deploy, 4:50:40 p.m., plus or minus about 13 seconds.
  • Radar activated, 4:51:30 p.m.
  • Lander separates from backshell, 4:53:09 p.m., plus or minus about 46 seconds.
  • Transmission gap during switch to helix antenna 4:53:08 to 4:53:14 p.m.
  • Descent thrusters throttle up, 4:53:12 p.m.
  • Constant-velocity phase starts, 4:53:34 p.m., plus or minus about 46 seconds.
  • Touchdown, 4:53:52 p.m., plus or minus about 46 seconds.
  • Lander radio off 4:54:52 p.m., plus or minus about 46 seconds.
  • Begin opening solar arrays (during radio silence) 5:13 p.m.
  • Begin NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter playback of Phoenix transmissions recorded during entry, descent and landing, 5:28 p.m. However, data for analysis will not be ready until several hours later.
  • Begin Europe's Mars Express spacecraft playback of Phoenix transmissions recorded during entry, descent and landing, 5:30 p.m. However, data for analysis will not be ready until several hours later.
  • Post-landing poll of subsystem teams about spacecraft status, 5:30 p.m.
  • Mars Odyssey "bent-pipe" relay of transmission from Phoenix, with engineering data and possibly including first images, 6:43 to 7:02 p.m. Data could take up to about 30 additional minutes in pipeline before being accessible. If all goes well, live television feed from control room may show first images as they are received. The first images to be taken after landing will be of solar arrays, to check deployment status.
  • News briefing, 9 p.m.

FFrench
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posted 05-24-2008 08:21 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for FFrench     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by cspg:
I will read about Phoenix once it's on the planet...
One way or another, it is going to be on the planet!

micropooz
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posted 05-24-2008 08:54 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for micropooz   Click Here to Email micropooz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
For any of you who don't have NASA TV on your cable system, CNN with Miles O'Brien will telecast the landing starting at 7 pm EDT Sunday night.

Philip
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Video: May 24 Phoenix Mars Landing Press Briefing

Highlights from Phoenix News Briefing at JPL -- Sat., May 24, Noon PDT

  • A decision will be made this afternoon, Sat., May 24, about whether to perform one more trajectory correction maneuver later tonight.

  • A dust cloud that NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been tracking is moving across the landing area today. It is not expected to pose any hazard to the landing.

  • As of noon PDT today, Phoenix had 1.28 million miles left to travel out of its 422-million-mile flight from Earth to Mars.

Robert Pearlman
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JPL Update: Phoenix Lander Update: No Saturday Night Maneuver
Mission controllers for NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander decided Saturday afternoon, May 24, to forgo the second-to-last opportunity for adjusting the spacecraft's flight path.

Phoenix is so well on course for its Sunday-evening landing on an arctic Martian plain that the team decided it was not necessary to do a trajectory correction 21 hours before landing.

However, the team left open the option of a correction maneuver eight hours before landing, if warranted by updated navigational information expected in the intervening hours.

Sunday at 4:53 p.m. Pacific Time is the first possible time for confirmation that Phoenix has landed. The landing would have happened 15 minutes earlier on Mars, but the radio signals take 15 minutes to travel from Mars to Earth at the distance separating the two planets today.

Robert Pearlman
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Peanuts! Get your peanuts here! Can't have a landing without peanuts...
There is a tradition at JPL to eat "good luck peanuts" before critical mission events, such as orbital insertions or landings. As the story goes, after the Ranger program had experienced failure after failure during the 1960s, the first succesful mission of the Ranger program landed on the Moon while a JPL staffer was munching on peanuts. The staff jokingly decided that the peanuts must have been a good luck charm and the tradition persists today. -- Wikipedia
  • How to Kill Mission Landing Nerves: Peanuts (LiveScience Blogs)
    With nerves likely to run high as the time for landing gets closer and closer, Goldstein will be using a long-time JPL nerve-killing tradition: passing out peanuts to the mission control crew.

    The practice has apparently been in place since the Ranger missions to the moon. After the first few failed, those in mission control began to pop peanuts in an attempt to calm their nerves.

    Phoenix will uphold this grand tradition, Goldstein said, adding, "I've already purchased the peanuts."

  • Peanuts and Rolling Stones on hand for Mars landing (New Scientist)
    The peanuts are a Jet Propulsion Lab tradition, but unlike at the last Mars landing, these peanuts will still be in their shells. "I think we need to go through the process" of opening up the peanuts to calm edgy nerves, he told New Scientist.

    In addition to the peanuts, lucky blueberries will also make an appearance - a nod to the Opportunity rover, which found iron-rich spherules, nicknamed blueberries, soon after it became the last spacecraft to successfully touch down on Mars.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 05-25-2008 06:39 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Phoenix has jettisoned its cruise stage, including the solar arrays that provided power during its journey from the Earth to Mars.

Robert Pearlman
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Phoenix has started sensing the top of the Martian atmosphere. During the next three minutes, friction will take most of the velocity out of the spacecraft's descent, heating the forward-facing surface of its heat shield to a peak of about 2,600 degrees Fahrenheit.

Robert Pearlman
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Phoenix has deployed its parachute! The spacecraft will descend on the parachute for nearly three minutes.

Robert Pearlman
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Phoenix has separated from its back shell and parachute, about six-tenths of a mile above the ground.

Robert Pearlman
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NASA's Phoenix spacecraft is broadcasting from the surface of Mars!

"Phoenix has landed! Phoenix has landed! Welcome to the northern plains of Mars!" exclaimed mission commentator Richard Kornfeld.

At 6:53 p.m. CDT, flight controllers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory saw confirmation that the lander safely touched down in a region of Vastitas Borealis unofficially named 'Green Valley', near the north pole of the planet (68.22 degrees latitude, 234.3 degrees longitude).

With this landing, Phoenix is now the sixth spacecraft in history to successfully touch down on the surface and the first to land under controlled descent since Viking 1 and 2 in 1976.

star61
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Fantastic! Wish I was at JPL right now. Imagine what it will be like with a crewed lander! Brilliant stuff!!!

Robert Pearlman
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NASA TV will resume live coverage of Phoenix on Mars at about 8:30 p.m. CDT.

Robert Pearlman
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First images received via relay with Mars Odyssey confirm Phoenix is on level ground and its solar arrays have deployed!

rjurek349
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Pretty awesome stuff. Watched the images come over live on NASA TV on the internet out on the deck, with my son. An amazing experience to see that pad on the ground, and seeing that first horizon picture. Can't wait until they start sending color images, and then start doing the soil analysis. Should be spectacular -- it already is!

Robert Pearlman
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NASA release
NASA's Phoenix Spacecraft Lands at Martian Arctic Site

NASA's Phoenix spacecraft landed in the northern polar region of Mars Sunday to begin three months of examining a site chosen for its likelihood of having frozen water within reach of the lander's robotic arm.

Radio signals received at 4:53:44 p.m. Pacific Time (7:53:44 p.m. Eastern Time) confirmed the Phoenix Mars Lander had survived its difficult final descent and touchdown 15 minutes earlier. The signals took that long to travel from Mars to Earth at the speed of light.

Mission team members at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.; Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver; and the University of Arizona, Tucson, cheered confirmation of the landing and eagerly awaited further information from Phoenix later Sunday night.

Among those in the JPL control room was NASA Administrator Michael Griffin, who noted this was the first successful Mars landing without airbags since Viking 2 in 1976.

"For the first time in 32 years, and only the third time in history, a JPL team has carried out a soft landing on Mars," Griffin said. "I couldn't be happier to be here to witness this incredible achievement."

During its 422-million-mile flight from Earth to Mars after launching on Aug. 4, 2007, Phoenix relied on electricity from solar panels during the spacecraft's cruise stage. The cruise stage was jettisoned seven minutes before the lander, encased in a protective shell, entered the Martian atmosphere. Batteries provide electricity until the lander's own pair of solar arrays spread open.

"We've passed the hardest part and we're breathing again, but we still need to see that Phoenix has opened its solar arrays and begun generating power," said JPL's Barry Goldstein, the Phoenix project manager. If all goes well, engineers will learn the status of the solar arrays between 7 and 7:30 p.m. Pacific Time (10 and 10:30 p.m. Eastern Time) from a Phoenix transmission relayed via NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter.

The team will also be watching for the Sunday night transmission to confirm that masts for the stereo camera and the weather station have swung to their vertical positions.

"What a thrilling landing! But the team is waiting impatiently for the next set of signals that will verify a healthy spacecraft," said Peter Smith of the University of Arizona, principal investigator for the Phoenix mission. "I can hardly contain my enthusiasm. The first landed images of the Martian polar terrain will set the stage for our mission."

Another critical deployment will be the first use of the 7.7-foot-long robotic arm on Phoenix, which will not be attempted for at least two days. Researchers will use the arm during future weeks to get samples of soil and ice into laboratory instruments on the lander deck.

The signal confirming that Phoenix had survived touchdown was relayed via Mars Odyssey and received on Earth at the Goldstone, Calif., antenna station of NASA's Deep Space Network.

Phoenix uses hardware from a spacecraft built for a 2001 launch that was canceled in response to the loss of a similar Mars spacecraft during a 1999 landing attempt. Researchers who proposed the Phoenix mission in 2002 saw the unused spacecraft as a resource for pursuing a new science opportunity. Earlier in 2002, Mars Odyssey discovered that plentiful water ice lies just beneath the surface throughout much of high-latitude Mars. NASA chose the Phoenix proposal over 24 other proposals to become the first endeavor in the Mars Scout program of competitively selected missions.

The Phoenix mission is led by Smith at the University of Arizona with project management at JPL and development partnership at Lockheed Martin, Denver. International contributions come from the Canadian Space Agency; the University of Neuchatel, Switzerland; the universities of Copenhagen and Aarhus, Denmark; Max Planck Institute, Germany; and the Finnish Meteorological Institute.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 05-25-2008 10:34 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
University of Central Florida release
UCF Invention Onboard Phoenix Mars Lander Will Reveal Planet's True Colors

When NASA's Phoenix lander touches down on Mars Sunday, it will be carrying two special tools to give scientists their best look at the Red Planet's true colors.

They're called color-calibration targets and are about the size of hockey pucks. Each device is covered with color chips, designed by University of Central Florida Physics and Astronomy Professor Dan Britt and two students. When Phoenix's camera takes pictures of the terrain, it will also capture the calibration targets, allowing scientists to compare the colors in each photo and determine the actual hues.

Knowing the true colors allows spectroscopists, such as Britt, to determine what makes up the planet's terrain. The colors are one reason NASA says that liquid water once existed on Mars, and they help geologists analyze layers of rock deposited over thousands of years.

"Mars is a dusty place with a harsh climate," said Britt, who has worked on calibration targets for four other Mars missions. Over time, dust covered the previous targets and color chips, making it nearly impossible to decipher accurate hues.

So, for the first time, calibration targets on the Phoenix Mars have built-in magnets to repel the dust. Each magnet is about 100 times stronger than a refrigerator magnet and should keep the targets "clean" while the lander samples soils in the Martian arctic region.

While Britt created the color chips, the targets and magnets were designed by scientists from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.

The lander is expected to reach its destination May 25, after a 422-million mile trip since its launching last August. Besides Britt's targets and a camera, Phoenix is equipped with a robotic arm that scientists hope will scoop up water ice thought to be just under Mars' surface.

With past color-calibration targets, Britt and his team -- which has included a University of Florida professor and UCF students -- have helped scientists learn more about Mars' surface, which Britt says is actually yellowish-brown and not red.

Britt started creating the color chips for Phoenix about three years ago in his lab at UCF. Made of rubbery silicon and paint pigments, the color chips were embedded in an aluminum casting and tested under extreme conditions -- intense ultraviolet light and depressurization -- before they left Earth last year.

Also new on several of the Phoenix lander's color targets is a special metal-infused coating created by Britt and UF chemistry professor Randolph S. Duran. The coating also should help keep away the dust, Britt says.

About a decade ago, Britt served as project manager and Deputy Imaging Team leader for the camera on NASA's Mars Pathfinder. He also participated in NASA's Deep Space One mission to encounter comet 19P/Borrelly in 2001. Now, he's working on fluorescent colored chips for future calibration targets for the Mars Science Laboratory rover, scheduled to launch in fall 2009. They're expected to help scientists capture infrared photos of the terrain for future analysis of the mysterious, so-called "Red Planet."

"We're doing this work to support future missions," he said. "It's always fun to build things that end up on other planets."

Here is the UCF target as photographed on Phoenix on Mars:

cspg
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posted 05-26-2008 12:04 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for cspg   Click Here to Email cspg     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I thought that arctic = ice & snow. Where are they? Oh, it's below the surface!

Robert Pearlman
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posted 05-26-2008 04:43 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
In the north polar region, outside the polar caps that we see, there actually is up to 80 percent water in the top meter of the soil. So our job is dig deep, not to drive out some of the rovers have done in the past. -- Leslie Tamppari, Phoenix Project Scientist

I know it looks a little like a parking lot, but that's a safe place to land. That makes it exactly where we want to be. Underneath this surface, I guarantee there's ice. You can see lots of pebbles, and soil, and all these troughs you see in between the polygons. These are probably about 15 feet across. — Peter Smith, Phoenix Principal Investigator

Robert Pearlman
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posted 05-26-2008 04:43 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This image shows a polygonal pattern in the ground near NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander, similar in appearance to icy ground in the arctic regions of Earth.

This is an approximate-color image taken shortly after landing by the spacecraft's Surface Stereo Imager, inferred from two color filters, a violet, 450-nanometer filter and an infrared, 750-nanometer filter.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 05-26-2008 10:43 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
From an Alliant Techsystems (ATK) release:
Alliant Techsystems announces that the Ultraflex Solar Arrays deployed and now provide power to the Mars Phoenix Lander. This is the first flight for this unique solar array technology developed by ATK's Goleta, California facility. Each Ultraflex array unfolded like an oriental fan into a circular shape 2.1 meters in diameter and will generate 770 watts of power from sunlight at the distance Earth is from the sun. Since Mars is approximately 1.5 times farther from the sun, the solar arrays will produce less than half the power possible on Earth.
The same Ultraflex technology will be used for the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle's 5-meter solar arrays.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 05-26-2008 01:15 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
NASA's Mars Phoenix Lander can be seen parachuting down to Mars, in this image captured by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. This is the first time that a spacecraft has imaged the final descent of another spacecraft onto a planetary body.

From a distance of about 760 kilometers (472 miles) above the surface of the Red Planet, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter pointed its HiRISE obliquely toward Phoenix shortly after it opened its parachute while descending through the Martian atmosphere. The image reveals an apparent 10-meter-wide (30-foot-wide) parachute fully inflated. The bright pixels below the parachute show a dangling Phoenix. The image faintly detects the chords attaching the backshell and parachute. The surroundings look dark, but correspond to the fully illuminated Martian surface, which is much darker than the parachute and backshell.

Phoenix released its parachute at an altitude of about 12.6 kilometers (7.8 miles) and a velocity of 1.7 times the speed of sound.

The HiRISE acquired this image on May 25, 2008, at 4:36 p.m. Pacific Time (7:36 p.m. Eastern Time). It is a highly oblique view of the Martian surface, 26 degrees above the horizon, or 64 degrees from the normal straight-down imaging of Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The image has a scale of 0.76 meters per pixel.

ejectr
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posted 05-26-2008 01:25 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ejectr   Click Here to Email ejectr     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
THAT'S INCREDIBLE!

robsouth
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posted 05-26-2008 02:11 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for robsouth     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There are some truly fantastic images out there from space exploration, I love photos like this. Seeing one unmanned spacecraft from another, superb!

The colour surface photo is great too, can't wait for the day when a bootprint appears in that dusty surface.

Mr Meek
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posted 05-26-2008 05:45 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Mr Meek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The MRO photo is....wow. That's history.

A friend of mine expressed some joking disappointment that the second surface picture from Phoenix didn't have Megatron lurking in it. You have to watch out for those Decepticons.


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