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Four Hundred and Twenty Three Million Mile Journey

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    Posted: May/25/2008 at 4:56am
Story from BBC News.com
Click link to see video.

Also, SPACE.com has been a fantastic place to follow the news on this mission.

Quote Mars probe set for risky landing

An American spacecraft is about to attempt a perilous landing on the surface of Mars.

Nasa's Phoenix lander is due to touch down on Monday in the far north of the Red Planet, after a 423-million-mile journey from Earth.

The probe is equipped with a robotic arm to dig for water ice thought to be buried beneath the surface.

Scientists say the mission should give the clearest indication yet of whether Mars could once have harboured life.

The final seven minutes of the probe's ten-month journey is regarded as the riskiest part of the mission.

The main goal of the mission is to get below the surface of Mars to where we are almost certain there is water.

After it enters the top of the Martian atmosphere at nearly 5.7km/s (13,000 mph), the probe must perform a series of manoeuvres to come safely to rest.

It will release a parachute, use pulsed thrusters to slow to a fast walking speed, then come to a halt on three legs.

If all goes to plan, the Phoenix lander will reach the surface of Mars at 0053 BST (1953 EDT) on 26 May.

Nasa controllers will know in about 15 minutes whether the attempt has been successful.



Phoenix will land further north than previous missions


David Catling from the University of Bristol is a co-investigator on the mission. He said the landing phase would be one of the most exciting and tense parts of the journey, with so much riding on Phoenix's safe descent.

"Everyone involved is on tenterhooks and eager to start this unique exploration," he said.

If all goes to plan, Phoenix will begin a three-month mission to search for ice beneath the Martian surface.

It will use a robotic arm to dig through the protective topsoil layer and lift samples of both soil and ice to its deck for scientific analysis.

Building blocks

Dr Tom Pike of Imperial College, London, is part of the British team involved in the project.

"The main goal of the mission is to get below the surface of Mars to where we are almost certain there is water," he told BBC News.

"The orbiters that are around Mars have already surveyed in great detail the area in which we are landing and we know that there is ice - solid water - 10cm, or maybe even less, below the surface.

"Water, of course, is of critical importance because it is one of the building blocks - one of the essential habitats we need - for life."

Landing on Mars is a notoriously tricky business. Of the 11 missions that have tried to land probes on Mars since 1971 - only five have succeeded.


Phoenix carries seven science instruments.

Phoenix is an apt name for the current mission, as it rose from the ashes of two previous failures.

In September 1999, the Mars Climate Orbiter spacecraft crashed into the Red Planet following a navigation error caused when technicians mixed up "English" (imperial) and metric units.

A few months later, another Nasa spacecraft, the Mars Polar Lander (MPL), was lost near the planet's South Pole.

Phoenix uses hardware from an identical twin of MPL, the Mars Surveyor 2001 Lander, which was cancelled following the two consecutive failures.

The probe was launched on 4 August 2007 on a Delta II rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote WhiteWolf Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: June/13/2008 at 1:19pm
From Breitbart.com:

Quote Mars Phoenix lander offers up first secrets

Jun 13 05:45 PM US/Eastern




About three weeks after it landed on Mars, the Phoenix lander has collected particles that offer a snapshot of millions of years of life on the Red Planet, the team behind the probe said Friday.
NASA's 420-million-dollar lander has also possibly located ice and is half way to offering scientists on Earth a 360-degree view from its landing site in the Martian polar region, with rocks and hills fading into the dusty distance.

"We're getting about twice the data volume we were told to expect," said Peter Smith, Phoenix principal investigator at the University of Arizona.

The team is hoping to find evidence of the existence of water and life-supporting organic minerals in the polar region, on the basis that the similar areas on Earth preserve traces of climate change and signs of life.

For the past week, Phoenix's robotic arm, which looks like a back-hoe, has been digging into the soil around it and uncovered a bright surface about 2-2.5 inches (5-6 centimeters) below the soil that could be ice.

"Not everybody's sure that this is ice. There's been some debate within our team," said Smith. "The debate centers around perhaps there's a salt layer above the ice, which would be very bright and white also."

The team was pretty sure they would find ice, but not whether they had already found it, he explained during a televised briefing in Tuscon, Arizona, adding that scraping further into the surface was "really a high priority."

Some of the soil collected so far was be "very clumpy, its very sticky," Smith said, and initially got stuck on one of Phoenix's oven-like instruments, the Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer (TEGA). Tests are now underway.

Other finer particles meanwhile have been collected in another testing instrument and reveal the history of soil on Mars, going from black glassy particles to more weathered ones, Phoenix team member Tom Pike said.

"What we're looking at here is a potted history of Martian soil," he said.

He described "black glassy particles that over millions, even billions of years have been slowly weathering down, becoming iron-enriched which gives the organic material its characteristic (red) color, and we're seeing that process captured on the variety of particles that we're looking at."

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote WhiteWolf Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: June/15/2008 at 7:27am
Image of Phoenix, from MARS!

Sometimes I just don't think the media understands or even grasps the enormity of this, how cool it is, how importanta it all is...

I love reading science fiction and all, but the real thing shouldn't be excused for celebrity news or some other such crap. Why the whole planet of Earth is not discussing this just baffles me.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote MONSTER Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: June/17/2008 at 1:50pm
That easy to answer, and you already know. People just dont give a damn anymore. Who cares about Space exploration and visiting other worlds when theres a Mcdonalds down the street, and a double feature "Reality show" on the stooooopid tube.

The human race put a frigan robot on mars and are broadcasting color pic's/video back, but wait Flavor of love is on..cant mis that!

Thanks for the update, i havent been folowing anything going on in the wide world lately..Im just glad Phoenix didnt crash!!
"Never let your sense of morals prevent you from doing what's right." Isaac Asimov
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote WhiteWolf Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: June/23/2008 at 5:15am
Is there water ice on Mars?

Everyone currently seems to think so. If that is the case, it immediately makes this entire Mars mission a huge success, and that is even before any of the elements have begun to be analyzed more thoroghly.

Just from that picture alone, we are beginning to see some things that are unlocking truths and mysteries about the planet that will go a long way towards putting a man on another planet in the near future.

Why? Well, if an expeditionary team can use resources that are already available on the planet, like drilling for water ice, then it may be possible to manufacture breathable air and drinkable water for the team, making the total cargo weight necessary for the trip that much smaller, that much less expensive, and the total time allowed for exploration of the planet that much longer.

Check out the Phoenix Mars Mission Homepage.

Listen to this podcast by the Mission Project Manager.

This is awesome! THis is HUGE! This is the most incredibly cool thing in the news right now.

But all anyone is talking about is Barack Obama, the fact that somebody named Amy Winehouse is a crack addict, and how everyone is complaining about gas prices.

Who knows? Scientist on the surface of Mars might be the only way to discover a clean, reusable source of energy, or advance any sort of realistic approach to climate as affected by solar wind and other factors that Mars shares with us.

This whole mission has me absolutely captivated.
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