Archive by category | NASA Phoenix Landing

Phoenix landing: Here’s the scoop

Phoenix landing: Here's the scoop

Phoenix’s robotic arm has scooped up its first mouthful of Martian soil, mission scientists announced today. In a test “dig and dump” area to the west of the “National Parks” that are off limits for now, the robotic arm easily slid into the soil. The color picture here, taken with the LEDs of the robotic arm camera, gives a good sense of the crumbly, crusty overburden that the team will be digging through to get to the ice that they’re pretty sure lurks just below.  Read more

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: Coping with Mars time

Phoenix landing: Coping with Mars time

In the toilets at the Science Operations Center, there are bags containing vials and plastic jugs. A sign above the bags warns: “Do not throw these away!” It is part of an experiment within an experiment. Phoenix scientists are going to sample Mars’ ice; Walter Sipes is going to sample the Phoenix scientists’ urine — as a way of assessing their body clocks. Sipes, a NASA psychologist at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, usually works with astronauts on the International Space Station, helping them adjust their body clocks when they suddenly need to perform a maneuver on, say, Moscow  … 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