Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

NASA Phoenix Mission Ready For Mars Landing

Date:
May 14, 2008
Source:
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Summary:
NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander is preparing to end its long journey and begin a three-month mission to taste and sniff fistfuls of Martian soil and buried ice. The solar-powered robotic lander will manipulate a 2.35 meter arm (7.7 foot) to scoop up samples of underground ice and soil lying above the ice. Onboard laboratory instruments will analyze the samples. One research goal is to assess whether conditions at the site ever have been favorable for microbial life.

The landing site chosen for NASA's Mars Phoenix Lander is much farther north than the sites where previous spacecraft have landed on Mars.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander is preparing to end its long journey and begin a three-month mission to taste and sniff fistfuls of Martian soil and buried ice. The lander is scheduled to touch down on the Red Planet May 25.

Phoenix will enter the top of the Martian atmosphere at almost 21,000 kilometers per hour (almost 13,000 mph). In seven minutes, the spacecraft must complete a challenging sequence of events to slow to about 8 kilometers per hour (5 mph) before its three legs reach the ground. Confirmation of the landing could come as early as 4:53 p.m. PDT (7:53 p.m. EDT).

"This is not a trip to grandma's house. Putting a spacecraft safely on Mars is hard and risky," said Ed Weiler, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "Internationally, fewer than half the attempts have succeeded."

Rocks large enough to spoil the landing or prevent opening of the solar panels present the biggest known risk. However, images from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, detailed enough to show individual rocks smaller than the lander, have helped lessen that risk.

"We have blanketed nearly the entire landing area with HiRISE images," said Ray Arvidson of Washington University in St. Louis, chairman of the Phoenix landing-site working group. "This is one of the least rocky areas on all of Mars and we are confident that rocks will not detrimentally impact the ability of Phoenix to land safely."

Phoenix uses hardware from a spacecraft built for a 2001 launch that was canceled in response to the loss of a similar Mars spacecraft during a 1999 landing attempt. Researchers who proposed the Phoenix mission in 2002 saw the unused spacecraft as a resource for pursuing a new science opportunity.

Earlier in 2002, NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter discovered that plentiful water ice lies just beneath the surface throughout much of high-latitude Mars. NASA chose the Phoenix proposal over 24 other proposals to become the first endeavor in the Mars Scout program of competitively selected missions. "Phoenix will land farther north on Mars than any previous mission," said Phoenix Project Manager Barry Goldstein of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

"The Phoenix mission not only studies the northern permafrost region, but takes the next step in Mars exploration by determining whether this region, which may encompass as much as 25 percent of the Martian surface, is habitable," said Peter Smith, Phoenix principal investigator at the University of Arizona, Tucson.

The solar-powered robotic lander will manipulate a 2.35 meter arm (7.7 foot) to scoop up samples of underground ice and soil lying above the ice. Onboard laboratory instruments will analyze the samples. Cameras and a Canadian-supplied weather station will supply other information about the site's environment.

One research goal is to assess whether conditions at the site ever have been favorable for microbial life. The composition and texture of soil above the ice could give clues to whether the ice ever melts in response to long-term climate cycles. Another important question is whether the scooped-up samples contain carbon-based chemicals that are potential building blocks and food for life.

The Phoenix mission is led by Smith, with project management at JPL. The development partnership is with Lockheed Martin, Denver. International contributions are from the Canadian Space Agency; the University of Neuchatel, Switzerland; the universities of Copenhagen and Aarhus, Denmark; the Max Planck Institute, Germany; and the Finnish Meteorological Institute.

For more about the Phoenix mission on the Web, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/phoenix


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "NASA Phoenix Mission Ready For Mars Landing." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 May 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/05/080514073843.htm>.
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. (2008, May 14). NASA Phoenix Mission Ready For Mars Landing. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/05/080514073843.htm
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "NASA Phoenix Mission Ready For Mars Landing." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/05/080514073843.htm (accessed April 17, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

New Baby Moon 'Peggy' Spotted In Saturn's Rings

New Baby Moon 'Peggy' Spotted In Saturn's Rings

Newsy (Apr. 15, 2014) A bump in the rings could be a half-mile-wide miniature moon. It was found by accident in Cassini probe images. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Americas Glimpse Total Lunar Eclipse

Americas Glimpse Total Lunar Eclipse

AFP (Apr. 15, 2014) A total lunar eclipse, the first since December 2011, took place early Tuesday morning with the Americas getting the best glimpse. Duration: 1:19 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA Showcases Lunar Eclipse

NASA Showcases Lunar Eclipse

AP (Apr. 15, 2014) Star gazers in parts of North and South America got a rare treat early Tuesday morning - a total eclipse of the moon. (April 15) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Spacecrafts Could Use Urine As Fuel Source

Spacecrafts Could Use Urine As Fuel Source

Newsy (Apr. 15, 2014) New research says the urea from urine could be recycled for fuel. Urea is filtered out of wastewater when making drinking water. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins