"All of us involved in the Mars Exploration Rover mission are wishing our Phoenix mission colleagues the best of success as they head into the "home stretch". We know that they have all been working very hard to prepare for the landing. When Phoenix opens its "eyes" on sol 1, I think that the view is going to be stunning, beautiful, and probably not at all what any of us is expecting. Mars has a way of surprising us, time after time!"
Within a few hours from the time I am writing this words we will be celebrating a significant milestone in the journey of Phoenix towards Mars, the countdown digits for the landing will reach the 50 days for the arrival of the mission to the north pole of the Red Planet.
Only a mere 1200 hours separate us from witnessing Phoenix reaching unknown territory, with all the justified emotion that a mission that was reborn from ashes due to will of people who dared not to quit dreaming.
During the last days I have been thinking on how to celebrate the occasion.
So…that is the reason for me being here on this beautiful Saturday...bringing you some special interventions and announcements.
Where to start?
With a very special reaction coming from someone who will, soon, be at spacEurope for an audio interview, Dr. Ashwin R. Vasavada, JPL, Deputy Project Scientist for the Mars Science Laboratory, which we all expect to succeed on being the next mission to land on Mars:
"I am sure that all of us on the Mars Science Laboratory project are starting to hold our breath in anticipation of the safe arrival of Phoenix to Mars. I personally can't wait to see the icy high latitudes for the first time! Having worked earlier on the unsuccessful Mars Polar Lander, it's a thrill to see Phoenix carry the torch on trying to understand the climate history and habitability of Mars.
See you on Mars, Phoenix!"
Now some news and announcements…spacEurope was informed that, while Phoenix smoothly makes its way towards Mars, here on Earth, fortunately opposing to earlier reports pointing to a delay in the scheduled activities, everything is going just perfectly regarding the Payload interoperability testbed, or PIT, for the closest friends…
A very important note received on my yesterday’s e-mail marathon came from Ray Arvidson, Phoenix’s Co-Investigator for the Robotic Arm.
The Professor had some very special news for spacEurope’s readers: according to the Co-Investigator, the team has confirmed the mission’s final landing site on the last week. So…what scenario will we be facing? Quoting Arvidson, Phoenix will find a location dominated by smooth, relatively rock free plains with numerous periglacial polygons where the team expects water ice to be only a few centimeters beneath a cover of loose regolith. I will try to bring us more details on this as soon as possible.
Ray Arvidson also revealed the expectations of the Phoenix family towards May 25th: to see the surface from a landed perspective and begin the excavation, sampling, and analyses of the ice deposits. I will try to have more details on this as soon as possible.
So, now we have a better idea of what will we see then…this can be useful for those participating in the Through the Eyes of the Phoenix online competition organized by spacEurope in association with the mission’s outreach.
Still on this issue, even knowing that the man must be drowned in work until his neck, I have invited Mark Lemmon to be part of the jury.
Well…as I write this that is, time allowing, a possibility.
Let us cross our fingers and hope that the mission’s image guy can dig out some minutes to check your works.
Let me see what more spacEurope goodies I have here…another very important aspect will be ESA’s Mars Express support, as required by NASA, for the EDL of Phoenix mission, about this you will be able to, soon, listen to a special update post with Michel Denis, ESA Mars Express Spacecraft Operations Manager, clarifying what will be the role of the European mission.
Regarding this, I am really curious to know if it will be possible for the High Resolution Stereo Camera onboard the orbiter to see Phoenix as it entries and descends towards the surface of Mars…just stay alert, juicy news on the way…
Also for the upcoming days expect some surprises coming from spacEurope’s residents…I have assigned Nicholas Previsich in a very special mission, let us see how it works out…
Stuart Atkinson prepared a truly inspiring article to be posted in soon and Lewis Dartnell, our resident astrobiologist is also getting his ideas into place to present you an article on Phoenix’s relevancy for the search of life beyond Earth…
You have all the reasons to expect plenty of exciting moments as the countdown for the arrival of Phoenix at Mars is unstoppable.
And…last but not the least… as the perfect way to wrap this post, I have received yesterday a truly appreciated e-mail that leads me, proudly, to an official announcement:
Peter Smith, Phoenix Principal Investigator, has confirmed his presence at spacEurope on April 14 (only 9 days from now…) for a live Q’n’A with the readers of this blog, so, get yourself prepared, think about the questions you may have about the mission and submit these when the day arrives, I assure you our PI will not disappoint you.
For now, from sunny Sintra, this is it.
Wish you all a perfect weekend!