Archive by category | NASA Phoenix Landing

Phoenix landing: First ice?

Phoenix landing: First ice?

Phoenix scientists may have taken their first glimpse of Martian ice. In order to see underneath the lander — an area likely blasted free of thin soil by the landing retrorockets — missions scientists had to use the camera on the end of the robotic arm. A picture returned last night shows a series of three tabular surfaces (upper middle in the image here). “They could be exposures of ice, or they could be exposures of rock,” said Ray Arvidson, of Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, and lead for the robotic arm, at today’s press conference. “What we have  … Read more

Phoenix landing: The end of the beginning

Between my last post and this one, I’ve traveled on a plane from Tucson back to Washington, DC. My jet lag will be opposite to what the Phoenix scientists face. And my homecoming, unlike Peter Smith’s, means that I will be devoting less, not more, time to Phoenix. But my posts won’t stop, they’ll just be sluggish, as if I’ve got dust on my solar arrays.  Read more

Phoenix landing: Humpty Dumpty and all the king’s men

Phoenix landing: Humpty Dumpty and all the king's men

The Mars Odyssey orbiter is going to be Phoenix’s twice-a-day radio link until engineers figure out what happened to the UHF radio on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, the Phoenix team announced this morning at a press conference here in Tucson. As I reported yesterday, MRO’s did come back on before the afternoon’s downlink, and so the Phoenix team was able to get some data down last night. But until they figure out what happened to MRO, Phoenix will use Odyssey. “This is a contingency that we have always planned for,” said JPL’s Barry Goldstein, Phoenix project manager. He said he had no worries about Odyssey being a much older spacecraft than MRO, noting that it was built the same time as Phoenix itself.  Read more

Phoenix landing: Part of the day IV

Phoenix landing: Part of the day IV

Right now the activities of the Surface Stereo Imager, or SSI, seem a bit mundane — documentary pictures of the robotic arm, bland portraits of dust-free solar arrays — but make no mistake: The SSI is like an orchestra’s conductor, integral to the sweet scientific music that the Phoenix team hopes to make with the other instruments.  Read more

Phoenix landing: Radio back on

Just a quick update: The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter UHF radio is back on, and so the orbiter should be back in business as the go-to relay station for Phoenix. Mission scientists said that when the radio was turned back on this afternoon, it didn’t “safe” itself and turn off immediately, as it did this morning just before it was supposed to upload Phoenix’s chores for the day. MRO should be back in business for the afternoon’s downlink that’s supposed to be happening right now.  Read more

Phoenix landing: One day delay

The big (and first bad) news coming out of the press conference this morning is that the UHF radio link on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter was shut down before it sent Phoenix its workday instructions for sol two on Mars. That means that all of the lander’s planned activities for today — tentative first motions of the robotic arm, the filling in of panoramic blank spots – will be delayed by a day.  Read more

Phoenix landing: Wow wow wow

Phoenix landing: Wow wow wow

As amazing as the pic was of Phoenix in mid-descent, 20 seconds after its parachute deployed, the backdrop might be more specatcular. Alfred McEwen, PI for the HiRise camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, zoomed out to find Heimdall crater looming 20 kilometers in the background. “This really give you an idea of how small Phoenix is in relation to Mars,” he said at a press conference Tuesday morning here in Tucson.  Read more