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Lander Zeroes in On Martian North Pole

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posted on Apr, 12 2008 @ 12:33 AM
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NASA's next spacecraft to visit Mars has changed course to zero in on its red planet landing site. The Phoenix Mars Lander fired its thrusters for 35 seconds Thursday to fine-tune its heading for a planned May 25 landing near the Martian north pole.

"Our landing area has the largest concentration of ice on Mars outside of the polar caps," said Phoenix principal investigator Peter Smith of the University of Arizona, Tucson. "If you want to search for a habitable zone in the arctic permafrost, then this is the place to go."

NASA launched the $420-million Phoenix last August on a mission to the martian arctic, where it is expected to use a robotic arm-mounted scoop to dig into the red planet's surface to study Mars water ice and soil.

Researchers hope the probe's onboard ovens, wet chemistry lab and other instruments will determine if its landing site may have once been habitable for microbial life. Phoenix is also designed to double as a Mars arctic weather and atmosphere-monitoring station.


Source




The planned landing site for NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander lies at a latitude on Mars equivalent to northern Alaska on Earth. It is within the region designated "D" on this global image. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Washington Univ. St. Louis/Univ. of Arizona.




A labeled look at NASA's Mars Phoenix Lander. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech /UA/Lockheed Martin.

It would be really amazing if it could find some evidence of life existed or exists in those Icy particles. But unlike other rovers this lander won't be able to move around and check samples from different locations. I think that is a big disadvantage or disappointment and what is the use of spending $420 Million? if it could not move around? Let us see how lucky we are; to find any evidence i guess we should have them buried under the landing site




posted on Apr, 12 2008 @ 10:35 AM
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I think that is a big disadvantage or disappointment and
what is the use of spending $420 Million? if it could not move around?


Phoenix is a Frankenstein-lander, of sorts, made from a combination of previously cancelled/failed missions.

This may answer some of your questions, E'.


www.abovetopsecret.com...
Phoenix, is basically a recycling of the canceled 2001 Mars Surveyor lander mission
and the failed Polar lander mission from '99.



And here (3/14) is the previous Phoenix update, with some additional related info.


[edit on 12-4-2008 by Jbird]



posted on Apr, 13 2008 @ 08:31 AM
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Originally posted by Jbird
This may answer some of your questions, E'.


Lol not some of, almost all; I should have used the search option before starting this new thread; Being a MOD if you could merge this thread with yours, it would be really great as your thread has got more information and people would find it easy to get all those details in one thread. Thanks for the help Jbird.



posted on Apr, 13 2008 @ 12:03 PM
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Not a big deal, E. My thread is so old, I can see it being used just for general reference purposes, at this point.

It's hard to keep it going when updates are so few and far between.
In fact, I can see a (mission) 'Part Deux' thread, being more than appropriate,
now that the 'countdown to touchdown' is fast approaching.

Hopefully, there will be an increase in coverage and updating, as Phoenix closes in on the Red Planet.
Feel free to put any updates you find (hint, hint
) in this thread.


To further comment on your previous question-
While I can understand the idea of using up what they have 'on the shelf', (i.e. Mars Surveyor and Polar Lander)
I, like you, am still a little perplexed, about the rationale and cost-effectiveness of a mission with such constrained parameters.


A surprisingly, (to me) short mission - Mar's northern Summer will only last until December , when the craft will no longer receive enough solar energy to stay powered up.

Seems strange the mission is so short-lived, but from what I've read,
I see no signs it will power up again, when the Mars' summer returns, in following years.


So we're talkin' only a 6-7 month life expectancy. Of course we've been surprised before with the amazing and unexpected lifespans of the Rovers.

But first things first, I suppose. Cheers, to a successful landing.



posted on Apr, 14 2008 @ 01:15 AM
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reply to post by Jbird
 


Thanks for the reply Jbird; I will try my best to update the Phoenix mission here.



posted on May, 2 2008 @ 08:01 AM
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Update

Phoenix Lander Takes Aim at Martian Arctic


NASA's Mars-bound Phoenix spacecraft is gearing up for a landmark landing near the martian north pole this month to find out whether the region could have once supported microbial life.

Phoenix is on course for a planned May 25 touchdown in the martian arctic that, if successful, will mark the first powered landing on Mars since NASA's hefty Viking 2 lander set down in 1976. But first, the probe is expected to fire its thrusters several times in the next few weeks to fine-tune its flight path.

The Phoenix lander tweaked its course in early April and is scheduled to fire its thrusters in three successive Saturday maneuvers beginning May 10. The spacecraft has flown so accurately that one of the maneuvers may not be necessary, Goldstein said.


Source



posted on May, 4 2008 @ 11:34 AM
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Not meaning to derail or hijack the thread, I just wanted to know if there has been any word or REALISTIC theory about how and why the rovers have lasted this long? Aside form the usual,"aliens using windex" hoohah



posted on May, 5 2008 @ 08:31 AM
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I love conspiracies!!
So how about this....

I zoomed in to the landing coordinates given in the OP and this is what I found. Now why does NASA want to land its rover in this strange triangular area?
(It may not, of course! This is only a part of the hundred or so sq km).


PSP 001457 2600.
Courtesy: University of Arizona


Check it out through the IAS viewer and not the B/W image shown in the HiRISE website here...

hirise.lpl.arizona.edu...

Cheers!



posted on May, 5 2008 @ 09:09 AM
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reply to post by mikesingh
 

hi mike --

A few things:

1. Just to clarify, Phoenix is not a "rover" -- it is a lander only.

2. Can you give some context as to where that triangular shape is located on the photo to which you provided a link? I looked at the linked image in the IAS view, but couldn't tell exactly if I could see the same thing you showed in your cropped image.

I see many triangular-shaped objects, but most of those are sand deposits between the dunes. Please give a location for the object to which you are referring.

3. Is this HiRISE image really taken within the landing area shown in the OP? The image you linked is at 80 degrees north latitude. According to the OP's source, the landing site is many miles south of that -- between 65 and 72 degrees north latitude (the NASA website further specifies the target landing site to be at 68-69 degrees latitude and 232 to 236 East longitude)



posted on May, 5 2008 @ 09:32 AM
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Originally posted by Soylent Green Is People
A few things:

1. Just to clarify, Phoenix is not a "rover" -- it is a lander only.


Apologies! My bad! A rover wouldn't be able to get past those dunes anyway!



2. Can you give some context as to where that triangular shape is located on the photo to which you provided a link? I looked at the linked image in the IAS view, but couldn't tell exactly if I could see the same thing you showed in your cropped image.


When you open the viewer scroll toward the right of the strip, about 3/4th of the way. You won't see it if you magnify it too much as the area to be covered is pretty large. Once you've seen it you can then magnify it to max.



3. Is this HiRISE image really taken within the landing area shown in the OP? The image you linked is at 80 degrees north latitude. According to the OP's source, the landing site is many miles south of that -- between 65 and 72 degrees north latitude.


You're right. The area covered is around 75 N. The HiRISE image covers a large area. The coords are centered at 80 Lat and 245.4 deg Long which pertains to the center point of the image strip.

Cheers!



posted on May, 5 2008 @ 09:40 AM
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According to the article, the landing will be a power descent rather than the 'drop and bounce' they used for the rover.......a more precise landing?

Sounds like there is something very specific that they want to land directly on top of......especially with all the mentions of 'tweeking' the approach.

Have they given any better co-ordinates than is mentioned in the OP's source??



posted on May, 5 2008 @ 01:12 PM
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Originally posted by frayed1
According to the article, the landing will be a power descent rather than the 'drop and bounce' they used for the rover.......a more precise landing?


I think it's more likely due to the fact that old missions were cannibalized to make this lander.



Sounds like there is something very specific that they want to land directly on top of......especially with all the mentions of 'tweeking' the approach.
...


Mainly they're looking for water,


www.nasa.gov...
"Our landing area has the largest concentration of ice on Mars outside of the polar caps. If you want to search for a habitable zone in the arctic permafrost, then this is the place to go," said Peter Smith, principal investigator for the mission, at the University of Arizona, Tucson.


and the only 'tweeking' I've read about have been 3 of 6 scheduled course corrections.


www.nasa.gov...
NASA's Mars-Bound Phoenix Adjusts Course Successfully 08.10.07
NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander today accomplished the first and largest of six course corrections planned during the spacecraft's flight from Earth to Mars.



www.nasa.gov...
This is our first trajectory maneuver targeting a specific location in the northern polar region of Mars," said Brian Portock, chief of the Phoenix navigation team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. The mission's two prior trajectory maneuvers, made last August and October, adjusted the flight path of Phoenix to intersect with Mars...

(bolded mine)



posted on May, 5 2008 @ 01:40 PM
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Originally posted by mikesingh...When you open the viewer scroll toward the right of the strip, about 3/4th of the way. You won't see it if you magnify it too much as the area to be covered is pretty large. Once you've seen it you can then magnify it to max...

Thank's Mike -- I see it now.



Originally posted by frayed1
According to the article, the landing will be a power descent rather than the 'drop and bounce' they used for the rover.......a more precise landing?

Sounds like there is something very specific that they want to land directly on top of......especially with all the mentions of 'tweeking' the approach.

Yes -- they have a very specific "type" of landing site, and that is one at the boundary between the ice caps and the rest of the planet. Since water ice is known to exist at the poles, they are hoping to fide soil mixed with water ice at the ice cap/soil boundary.

However from what I read, the reason for not using the airbag landing system is not so they could be more precise with the landing location, but because the Phoenix Lander is too heavy to use that airbag system.

Even though the powered descent is more precise, the planned landing site is still in a 27-square km (17-square mile) area, and the possible landing ellipse is even larger than that. I suppose the fact that there is a parachute involved with the descent will cause the landing site to become imprecise.

The proposed 17 square mile area (4 miles x 4 miles??) may seem small, but don't forget the Mars rovers have only covered about 4.7 miles (Spirit) and 7.25 miles (Opportunity) in their lifetimes thus far -- in that context the 4 mile x 4 mile landing area seems quite large.


Originally posted by frayed1
Have they given any better co-ordinates than is mentioned in the OP's source??

I've seen this:
www.nasa.gov...

and this:
www.nasa.gov...

and this:
www.nasa.gov...

[edit on 5/5/2008 by Soylent Green Is People]



posted on May, 10 2008 @ 12:53 PM
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Update May 9th:

Phoenix's flight path is still on course.
So much so, it's 4th planned course correction will not be needed.
May 17th is the next chance to adjust trajectory, with the final chance coming just a day before the May 25th landing.


www.nasa.gov...
The Phoenix navigation team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., made that recommendation after assessing the trajectory this week and mission management accepted the recommendation late Thursday. Phoenix has performed three flight path correction maneuvers since its Aug. 4, 2007, launch. Besides the May 17 one, the final opportunity for adjusting -the course to hit the targeted landing area will be in the final 24 hours before landing...

The first possible confirmation time for the spacecraft's landing on May 25 will be at 4:53 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time. The event would have happened 15 minutes and 20 seconds earlier on Mars, and then radio signals traveling at the speed of light will take 15 minutes and 20 seconds to cross the distance from Mars to Earth on that day.



Here's some more data from the Landing Press Kit PDF for May 2008,
that expands on some of the previous questions.

-Landing site is listed as 68 degrees north lat, 233 degrees east long , in Vastitas Borealis

-904 lb. total weight for the lander. ( this includes the 130 lb. science package.)

The three main objectives:



1. Study the history of water in all its phases.
2. Determine if Martian arctic soil could support life.
3. Study Martian weather from a polar perspective.


From the same PDF, is this very enlightening Landing Site comparison map



And here's the minute by minute landing sequence.



15 days to touchdown !



posted on May, 12 2008 @ 07:51 AM
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reply to post by Jbird
 


Jbird, Thanks for that detailed post. Here we have some details about the Radar, Parachute, Motors etc on Phoenix.


Intense Testing Paved Phoenix Road to Mars

Like all missions, Phoenix was motivated by the potential science rewards. With its robotic arm, Phoenix will be the first mission to reach out and touch water ice in Mars' north polar region. The mission will study the history of the water in the ice, monitor weather of the polar region, and investigate whether the subsurface environment in the far-northern plains of Mars has ever been favorable for sustaining microbial life.


Source



posted on May, 13 2008 @ 04:48 AM
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Update May 13th

Phoenix Landing Area Viewed by Mars Color Imager


An annotated version of the image indicates the location of the landing ellipse, about 100 kilometers (60 miles) long. The Context Camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter took an image of the landing area at the same time the Mars Color Imager took this image. A dot within the landing ellipse marks the location of two active dust devils visible in the Context Camera image, PIA10633. When the Mars Color Imager acquired this image, the season in Mars' northern hemisphere was late spring. A few weeks earlier, the Phoenix landing site was still covered with seasonal frost left over from the previous winter.


Source




posted on May, 14 2008 @ 07:39 AM
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Update May 14th

How NASA's Phoenix Will Land on Mars


Phoenix managers refer to the probe's descent as "seven minutes of terror" that will define the future of the spacecraft's $420-million mission.

The probe combines new technology with proven methods for landing, including an Apollo-era Earth entry software algorithm to guide the spacecraft's early descent into the Martian atmosphere.

A Viking-era parachute is designed to open once Phoenix falls within 7.8 miles (12.6 km) above Mars, creating drag to slow the spacecraft as it screams through the atmosphere at supersonic speed. The probe's landing radar should begin giving altitude and velocity of descent as Phoenix nears the surface, so that the onboard computer can make any necessary landing adjustments.

Two minutes after the parachute deployment, Phoenix will have descended to approximately 0.6 miles (1 km) above the surface. The lander should then jettison its backshell and freefall for half a second before lighting up its engines.

Nine of the twelve engines will pulse furiously 10 times per second — an effect Grover likened to "coming down on a jackhammer." The three non-pulsing engines should fire steadily to help ensure added stability.

"Just before touchdown, we actually pirouette the vehicle," Goldstein said, adding that the move will aid Phoenix's vital solar arrays. "We actually turn it so we maximize solar exposure."


Read the complete article here

Let us hope everything will go according to the plan and we will land Phoenix on Mars with out any glitches.



posted on May, 15 2008 @ 07:04 AM
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Science Channel To Broadcast Red Planet Landing Live May 25


Science Channel will broadcast live coverage of mankind's next major step in Mars exploration with MARS LIVE: THE PHOENIX LANDS premiering Sunday, May 25, 2008, from 7-9 PM (ET) and 4-6 PM (PT). Originating LIVE from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. and the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, the program will give viewers a first look at photos sent back from the Mars surface.


Read complete article here



posted on May, 22 2008 @ 05:26 PM
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All systems Go.

Being only 8 miles off course, on their intended target destination,
and with only 3 days till touchdown, discussions are ongoing
as to whether the last course correction burn will be needed.


www.nasa.gov...
The earliest possible time when mission controllers could get confirmation from Phoenix indicating it has survived landing will be at 4:53 p.m. Pacific Time on Sunday (7:53 p.m. Eastern Time).



Phoenix Mission Briefings

www.nasa.gov...
May 22, 2:30 p.m. (11:30 a.m. Pacific)
May 24, 3:00 p.m. (12:00 p.m. Pacific)
May 25, 3:00 p.m. (12:00 p.m. Pacific)
May 25, NASA TV coverage begins 6:30 p.m. (3:30 p.m. Pacific)
May 25, Landing on Mars at approximately 7:53 p.m. (4:53 p.m. Pacific)



I'm surprised this mission is going seemingly unnoticed by the general public.
It's not every day we visit another planet!
Personally, I can't wait.

Cross yer fingers, space fans.
With only a 45% success rate to Mars and a vintage landing platform,
let's hope Phoenix doesn't take Her name too seriously.

(The last link also has a countdown clock.)


[edit on 22-5-2008 by Jbird]



posted on May, 23 2008 @ 01:12 AM
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Originally posted by Jbird


Thanks for the update Jbird; even I can't wait to see it lands on the surface safely; Let us hope everything will work according to plans.



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