Monday, May 26, 2008

Phoenix Lander on Mars: Safe, and Sending Photos Home

"Probe lands on Mars, NASA says"
CNN (May 25, 2008)

"The first-ever landing of a probe near Mars' north pole took place successfully on Sunday, NASA confirmed.

"The Mars Phoenix Lander, completing a 296-day journey, closed in on the Red Planet with a 50-50 chance of a successful touchdown on its arctic plains, NASA officials said.

"The landing -- dubbed the "seven minutes of terror" -- was a nerve-wracking experience for mission managers, who have witnessed the failure of similar missions. "

Very good news.

If all goes well, the Phoenix lander will use its backhoe-like scoop to look for ice and other chemicals in the Martian soil near the north pole. The spacecraft will also deploy a weather station and take photos of the part of Mars where it landed.

I doubt that I'll live to see people walking on Mars, but it's exciting to watch the very early phases of exploration.

(from NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona, used w/o permission)
More images and video at Phoenix Mars Mission gallery.

"NASA's Phoenix Spacecraft Lands At Martian Arctic Site"
Phoenix Mars Mission home page

"May 25, 2008 NASA's Phoenix spacecraft landed in the northern polar region of Mars today 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 tonight."

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