Phoenix will explore the habitability of Mars' underground environment by testing for organic compounds
and searching for physical, mineralogical, and chemical evidence that the subsurface ice periodically melts
(even if it only melts into a very thin layer, barely wetting individual mineral grains).
There were plans to launch a Mars Sample Return (MSR) mission in 2004,
but following the twin-failures of the Mars Climate Orbiter and Mars Polar Lander,
MSR was cancelled.
NASA is considering launching a sample return mission of this type to Mars around the year 2013,
depending on its budget
The purpose of the HAYABUSA mission is sample return from the Itokawa by traveling through space ...
and arriving at the asteroid autonomously to acquire a material sample.
April 25, 2007 Updated
The Hayabusa's return to the Earth is scheduled for June 2010.
When HAYABUSA returns to Earth, a re-entry capsule bearing a surface sample from the asteroid
will separate from it and plunge into the Earth’s atmosphere.
The Flame Trench
Countdown activities now will begin around 1 p.m. Friday,
and countdown clocks will pick up at the T-Minus 150-minute mark around 2:45 a.m. Saturday.
The Flame Trench
The cone-shaped spacecraft seperated from the Delta 2's third stage about 6:50 a.m. -- or about 84 minutes after the 13-story rocket blasted off from Launch Complex 17A at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
NASA spokesman George Diller of the Kennedy Space Center said mission managers have made contact with the spacecraft through NASA's Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, Calif., and that all systems appear to be operating as expected.
Now Dawn is preparing to vacate Space Launch Complex 17 while Phoenix prepares for the opening of its 3-week launch period on August 3. After Phoenix has left Florida for the chillier north pole of Mars, Dawn will once again take its place of honor at the top of the rocket. In the next log, we will see how Dawn gets to spend its unplanned Florida vacation as well as how the change in its launch date affects its mission of exploration far from Earth.
The majority of the mass within the main belt is contained in the largest asteroids.
The three largest asteroids in the main belt (individually named 4 Vesta, 2 Pallas and 10 Hygiea)
have mean diameters of more than 400 km, while the main belt's only dwarf planet, Ceres,
is about 950 km in diameter. Together these four objects make up nearly half
of the total mass in the belt...
The asteroid material is so-thinly distributed, however, that multiple
unmanned spacecraft have traversed the belt without incident.
We will have diagnostic information from the top of the atmosphere to the ground that will give us insight into the landing sequence," said David Spencer of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., deputy project manager for the Phoenix Mars Lander project. This information would be valuable in the event of a problem with the landing and has the potential to benefit the design of future landers.
... As Odyssey receives a stream of information from Phoenix, it will immediately relay the stream to Earth with a more capable high-gain antenna. The other two orbiters, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Mars Express, will record transmissions from Phoenix during the descent, as backup to ensure that all data is captured, then transmit the whole files to Earth after the landing. "We will begin recording about 10 minutes before the landing," said JPL's Ben Jai, mission manager for Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.