Phoenix almost on Mars

The Mars lander, Phoenix, is less than an hour from the surface of Mars as I type (currently doing preconditioning before entering the Martian atmosphere).  I readily admit that I love this stuff.  Since about half of these landings have gone poorly, there is certainly no guarantee that this will go well.  And because the planned landing site is so near the polar ice cap, this has been a very highly anticipated mission.

I have allowed myself to think of things other than Pre-Teen Camp today, taking a break to play a round of Canasta with my wife (on Team Smith) and my aunt-in-law and my sister-in-law (on Team Not-Smith) and now to watch the live coverage of Phoenix’s landing on the Science Channel.  (Coverage is also available on the Internet on three different channels here: http://www.nasa.gov/.)

Given some of the more unpleasant endings to Mars missions, I don’t know if anyone has been making any Phoenix/ashes remarks, yet, and I don’t have the energy to attempt one here. 🙂 (UPDATE: Scratch that: just heard the dude on TV make one.) (UPDATE #2: Just heard another one, about 90 seconds later.)

Of note on this mission: (1) It will be a soft landing instead of an “air bag” landing, just like the old Viking missions (5 of our last 6 missions have been successful, but 3 of them have been air bag landings); (2) though Phoenix is not a rover, it will have a robotic arm that can dig up soil for analysis; and (3) it should be landing among much water ice–a first for a planet other than the one we live on.

It is also worth noting that it is a relatively cheap mission.  We have discussed the cost of Mars missions before (or at least mentioned them here in a post, “Spirit is willing but NASA’s wallet is weak”, which then turned into a Tomorrow’s World commentary with some tweaking: “As Mars mission ends, our yearning continues”), and this one is much cheaper than the previous Spirit/Opportunity combo.

Well, now I am blogging and missing out on precious TV time, so I will stop here.

OK, I won’t stop yet — the NASA dude on TV just said something funny.  The final stage of the Phoenix’s descent is controlled by 12 rockets that are designed to carry it to a safe landing on the ground.  When explaining what would happen if one of the rockets failed, he said, “The other eleven rockets will take you straight to the crash site.”  Hilarious.

Hope it goes well for you Phoenix!  Assuming you make it, tell your cousins Spirit & Opportunity and your big brothers Viking 1 & Viking 2 that we said howdy.  We’ll be watching…

4 thoughts on “Phoenix almost on Mars

  1. As you know by now the probe has landed safely. Yeah, I think this stuff is cool myself. It’s amazing to see pictures of Mars, especially when you can see the curvature of the horizon. Wow! A whole new plantet…

    Thing is, I keep thinking “somebody needs to pick up those rocks” and “how about a few trees…”

  2. rakkav

    Dear Mr. Smith,

    As you know by now, Phoenix touched down while ruffling nary a feather. (“The other eleven rockets will take you straight to the crash site.” Hilarious, indeed. I’ll have to remember that one!)

    Your obedient servant & shameless plagiarist,
    יוחנן רכב

  3. Craig

    This lander is getting more media coverage than normal in Canada because the meteorological instruments on it were designed and build in Canada. Since Canadians have a national obsession with weather, who better to monitor weather on Mars than us? Now we will be getting, along with our forcasts, the conditions on another planet. Last evening’s news said it was -33c on Mars! LOL. You can learn a bit more here:

    http://watch.ctv.ca/news/latest/mars-in-pictures/#clip55371

    I thought you would appreciate the following comment posted on the CTV website:

    Amazing engineering feat
    The engineering feat to land this craft was simply amazing. The pictures to follow will be equally as great.

    Too bad we can’t figure out how reach the hearts of man so we can all live together in peace!

  4. rakkav

    I should’ve mentioned that the Starry Night planetarium program (also made in Canada) allows me to simulate the day and night skies from any point on Mars, even the positions of the constellations and planets in the sky (along with very much else). One can even simulate the local horizon thanks to imagery taken by one of the Rover landers. It will be interesting to see if Phoenix takes a 360-degree view of the area it’s in and if it will be incorporated into Starry Night for use in the Martian polar regions.

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