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Author Topic: Phoenix Spacecraft Lands On Mars  (Read 3330 times)

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Geoff

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Phoenix Spacecraft Lands On Mars
« on: May 26, 2008, 04:58:18 AM »

I love this stuff:  :)

Mars Craft Succeeds in Soft Landing
Phoenix to Begin Search for Signs of Life Beyond Earth
 
By Marc Kaufman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, May 26, 2008; Page A01

The spacecraft Phoenix landed safely on Mars yesterday, making a hazardous soft landing on the planet's far north with all its scientific systems apparently intact and ready to begin an intensive new search for life beyond Earth.

After counting down the last stage of the descent by hundreds and then tens of nerve-racking meters, officials at Mission Control in Pasadena, Calif., announced that "Phoenix has landed," setting off a joyous celebration by the mission team.

"It could not have gone better, not in my dreams," said Barry Goldstein, NASA's project manager at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.

The touchdown, at about 8 p.m. Eastern time, was the first successful soft landing on the Red Planet -- using a parachute and thrusters rather than protective air bags -- since the twin Viking missions in 1976. In all, six of 11 similar attempts by the United States, Russia and England ended in failure, so the Phoenix team awaited with enormous apprehension the outcome of the spacecraft's approach and landing.

Phoenix plunged into the thin Martian atmosphere traveling at more than 12,000 mph. Over the next seven minutes, friction -- which raised the temperature on the heat shield to 2,600 degrees Fahrenheit -- slowed it enough to deploy the parachute.

About half a mile from the surface, and with only seconds remaining before touching down, 12 small rocket thrusters fired to slow the lander's descent speed to 5 mph. Before it landed, however, Phoenix had to orient itself toward the sun to ensure that its solar panels could pick up enough light to generate the power it will need on the surface.

Peter Smith of the University of Arizona, lead investigator for the mission, said earlier that the entry would amount to "seven minutes of terror" for the scientists.

Like the Viking landers, Phoenix is designed to look for organic material and other signs that life has existed on Mars, or could exist on the planet. Unlike the two rovers that have been exploring the Martian surface for nearly five years, Phoenix is built to stay in one place and use its robotic arm to dig into the soil and ice. The vehicle is equipped with several miniature chemistry labs to analyze the material it digs up.

The lander touched down further north on Mars than any previous lander. NASA scientists think the frozen water on or near the surface may tell them whether the minerals and organic compounds needed for life as we know it exist, or have ever existed, on the planet.

Throughout the descent and landing, NASA engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory were receiving data on the spacecraft's progress 15 minutes after events occurred -- helpless to intervene if anything went wrong. Transmissions were sent from Phoenix to the orbiting Mars Odyssey spacecraft, then relayed back to Earth at the speed of light over the 171 million miles between the planets.

Phoenix, named for the mythological bird reborn from its ashes, was assembled largely from parts manufactured for other spacecraft. After two Mars mission failures in 1999, the space agency scrapped a lander mission planned for 2000 and recycled some of the hardware.

One of those failures was the last time NASA tried a soft landing on Mars. The Mars Polar Lander was angling for the south pole when it prematurely shut off its engine and crashed to the surface below. The other failure involved a spacecraft that was supposed to go into orbit around Mars; NASA lost contact with it during the approach, and its fate is unknown.

The 900-pound, three-legged Phoenix lander, which cost $457 million, traveled a circuitous path of 423 million miles over almost 10 months to reach Mars. A rocket-and-parachute landing system -- like that of the Viking landers of 32 years ago -- was chosen because it allowed NASA to better pinpoint the landing location. The system is also a prototype of one that NASA hopes will one day land astronauts on Mars.

The later Mars Pathfinder and the two robot rovers, Opportunity and Spirit, which have been exploring the planet's equatorial region, landed using air bags to cushion the impact. Air bags are not practical for heavier craft such as the Phoenix because the weight of bigger bags reduces the amount of scientific equipment that can be carried.

The Phoenix was targeted at the north polar region because that is where some form of water (in the form of ice) is most likely to be present, and scientists believe that a form of water is necessary for life. They are convinced that surface water flowed on Mars billions of years ago, a conclusion reached by studying geologic features of the Martian landscape. Today, conditions on Mars do not allow for liquid water, in large part because the atmosphere is only 1 percent as dense as Earth's.

In 2002, however, the Mars Odyssey orbiter discovered that large amounts of water ice lay just beneath the surface in the permafrost that covers much of far northern Mars. Scientists say the region, which is notably flat and smooth, may have once been the bottom of a large ocean.

They are also intrigued that the surface shows polygonal patterns remarkably similar to some seen in Antarctica. Scientists speculate that they could be the result of cycles of freezing and thawing.

In addition to its sophisticated cameras, soil retrievers and mini-laboratories, Phoenix carried on its journey a mini-DVD created by the Planetary Society called "Visions of Mars." It holds a library of science fiction stories and art, as well as the names of more than 250,000 people.

The DVD, featuring the likes of Carl Sagan, Arthur C. Clarke and Ray Bradbury, is made of material designed to last for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/05/25/AR2008052502289.html?hpid=topnews





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Bobber

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Re: Phoenix Spacecraft Lands On Mars
« Reply #1 on: May 26, 2008, 07:19:47 AM »

Amazing.
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alexis

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Re: Phoenix Spacecraft Lands On Mars
« Reply #2 on: May 26, 2008, 03:42:18 PM »

Photo looks like my friend's back yard in west Texas.

I think it's a conspiracy theory ...

 :)
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Alexis

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Re: Phoenix Spacecraft Lands On Mars
« Reply #3 on: May 26, 2008, 06:36:34 PM »

Alexis, this is clearly Arizona. That light dot near the horizon, magnified 10,000 times, is a road sign that reads, "Next gas 167 miles".

Geoff, thanks for posting this. I have a friend at JPL who devised the landing system for the rovers. I must congratulate him, as I'm sure he was lurking there somewhere when Phoenix landed. :)
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Hello Goodbye

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Re: Phoenix Spacecraft Lands On Mars
« Reply #4 on: May 28, 2008, 01:20:52 AM »

Uh, oh!  Now we've done it!

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Geoff

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Re: Phoenix Spacecraft Lands On Mars
« Reply #5 on: May 28, 2008, 01:38:00 AM »

Quote from: 59
Uh, oh!  Now we've done it!



 ;D

... but perhaps a less worrying prospect than previously thought:

British U.F.O. Shocker! Government Officials Were Telling the Truth

By SARAH LYALL
Published: May 26, 2008

LONDON
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douglasleee

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Re: Phoenix Spacecraft Lands On Mars
« Reply #6 on: May 28, 2008, 03:15:11 AM »

My deepest apologies for the following:



(p.s. - I am a "space" nut (Star wars, Star Trek, landing on the moon in the 60's), but I could "HELP" myself on this
one. May JPGR forgive me.)
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harihead

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Re: Phoenix Spacecraft Lands On Mars
« Reply #7 on: May 28, 2008, 04:02:41 AM »

Quote
the sight of a smallish
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All you've got to do is choose love.  That's how I live it now.  I learned a long time ago, I can feed the birds in my garden.  I can't feed them all. -- Ringo Starr, Rolling Stone magazine, May 2007<br />

Geoff

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Re: Phoenix Spacecraft Lands On Mars
« Reply #8 on: May 28, 2008, 04:55:38 AM »

Quote from: 1161
Out fishing in 1983, the man had just poured himself a cup of tea, he recalled, when he was approached by two four-foot-tall beings wearing pale green overalls and large helmets. They led him into what turned out to be their ship
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douglasleee

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Re: Phoenix Spacecraft Lands On Mars
« Reply #9 on: May 28, 2008, 05:20:33 AM »

I wish I could say I've seen a/an "UFO", but haven't. I also would like to see an extraterrestrial and ask a few question.
BUT!!! I think our planet (not speaking of the people in this forum, of course) is to "war-like" and to ignorant for them
to want to land and say "look - We exist, you're not alone."
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BlueMeanie

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Re: Phoenix Spacecraft Lands On Mars
« Reply #10 on: May 28, 2008, 09:59:21 AM »

If anyone is out there, and is capable of reaching our planet, then they are thousands of years, probably millions, more advanced than us. If we're lucky, and they're friendly, I expect they'd just want to observe evolution. If they're not, they could probably destroy us with one swipe.
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Geoff

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Re: Phoenix Spacecraft Lands On Mars
« Reply #11 on: May 28, 2008, 03:17:41 PM »

I think biology, probability, and physics are all against UFO's existing. There are obviously all sorts of fascinating things out in space, including whole realms of matters we can't even guess at yet, but humanish creatures in mechanical contraptions aren't going to be among the things to turn up.
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harihead

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Re: Phoenix Spacecraft Lands On Mars
« Reply #12 on: May 28, 2008, 04:41:46 PM »

Geoff, Geoff, haven't you watched Star Trek? There are honey cloud creatures, and giant amoebas out in space-- all kinds of things, not just scantily clad women in silver bikinis. ;D

Actually, it is fascinating to speculate on extraterrestrial life. I'm a little concerned that SETI hasn't turned up anything yet. You'd think if there were other civilizations, we'd get a sniff of their transmissions-- unless their technology is too sophisticated for us to pick up. Life is actually pretty easy to evolve (they've managed it several times in the lab), but the accidents that might lead to a particular kind of intelligent rat building a spaceship are rather more statistically remote. And then we've got to time it. 3 billion years of development to get machine-building humans, and we've had a space-capable society for about 45 minutes?

Still, I like Rodenberry's vision of a universe filled with fun things. He might be right-- but getting us and them in the same place at the same time might be tricky.
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douglasleee

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Re: Phoenix Spacecraft Lands On Mars
« Reply #13 on: May 29, 2008, 01:25:57 AM »

I have to agree with Geoff on the 'Transportation" part of it. We can't even agree between Einstein (you can't travel faster
than light) and Roddenberry warp travel. It would be nice if it could be done, but I think we're just not there yet (knowing
how to do it, IF it exist.) On the other part, If there is a tree on some sort of planet out there somewhere, that is some
sort of "life" to me. Also, finding SETI is like our own car radio, we just have to find the correct "station" that they are
broadcasting on and look at all of those radio channels.  And maybe they sent a signal back in 1492, when we didn't have
about radio. The acting in "CONTACT" wasn't great, but I loved Jodie Foster "dad" in this movie - "if we're alone, it's an awful lot of wasted space." Call me "wishful thinking", I call it "continually learning".
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Geoff

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Re: Phoenix Spacecraft Lands On Mars
« Reply #14 on: May 29, 2008, 03:40:34 AM »

Quote from: 551
Life is actually pretty easy to evolve (they've managed it several times in the lab), but the accidents that might lead to a particular kind of intelligent rat building a spaceship are rather more statistically remote. And then we've got to time it. 3 billion years of development to get machine-building humans, and we've had a space-capable society for about 45 minutes?

Exactly: the UFO hypothesis rests on the argument that the chemical and biological evolution of earth was duplicated independently on an alien world and to such an extent that it not only produced a species that thought like we did but evolved a technological capability that we would recognize as such at approximately the same time as us. A coincidence like that would be truly staggering, even in a galaxy with perhaps a hundred million Earth type planets. Then there's the distances involved and the whole speed of light problem.

Personally I'm all for the Roddenberry sort of thing myself, and not just because of all the women in scantily clad bikinis (good selling point that, actually), but I don't think a Star Trek sort of future is at all plausible. Not that any consideration like that stops me from watching the old '60s show: I've got a complete set of it on DVD.  ;D


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douglasleee

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Re: Phoenix Spacecraft Lands On Mars
« Reply #15 on: May 29, 2008, 06:06:41 AM »

It would be "truly staggering" to duplicate humans, in the same time frame and have them "in a sense" past us in a
technological area (here's where they would "past" us and wouldn't be in the same time frame as us. i.e be able to
travel threw space "more at easy" than us.) I most humbly take the other view point, a far more advanced culture would
have to exist to create this "space travel", and since our solar system is only about 4.5 million years and the Universe is
about 13-14 billion, I can't remove that possiblity. I view the oppsite of Geoff, how can there "not" be something out there
besides us, but as far as "earthlings" right now are concerned, the "proof" leans towards Geoff side. The "travel" part, I
totally agree upon - I have to leave this up to Science and the SciFi crowd.
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Kevin

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Re: Phoenix Spacecraft Lands On Mars
« Reply #16 on: May 29, 2008, 08:38:28 AM »

Quote from: 1161
I think biology, probability, and physics are all against UFO's existing. There are obviously all sorts of fascinating things out in space, including whole realms of matters we can't even guess at yet, but humanish creatures in mechanical contraptions aren't going to be among the things to turn up.

Here here. Thew whole idea is prepostorous. Funny how the whole UFO mania thing happened immediately after World War Two and the advent of jet propulsion, and all look remarkably like the original fiction flying saucer in that movie I can't remember.
We have not identified any planets likely to substain life (of the pitifully few we have discovered.) The chances of them evolving life that can build spaceships and listen to radio signals is just silly.
Maybe for life to exist it needs a bizarre set of circumstances - the right sized planet of the right age next top the right sun. Perhaps the odds of that are a billion to one. We could just be very lucky.
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BlueMeanie

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Re: Phoenix Spacecraft Lands On Mars
« Reply #17 on: May 29, 2008, 10:33:12 AM »

Quote from: 185

Here here. Thew whole idea is prepostorous. Funny how the whole UFO mania thing happened immediately after World War Two and the advent of jet propulsion, and all look remarkably like the original fiction flying saucer in that movie I can't remember.
We have not identified any planets likely to substain life (of the pitifully few we have discovered.) The chances of them evolving life that can build spaceships and listen to radio signals is just silly.
Maybe for life to exist it needs a bizarre set of circumstances - the right sized planet of the right age next top the right sun. Perhaps the odds of that are a billion to one. We could just be very lucky.

I'm afraid this is where I'm going to have to disagree with you Kev. The possibilities of intelligent life existing on other planets are immense. If life could eveolve on this little planet, then why not somewhere else? I don't expect 'aliens' to look like humans, in fact if we ever met any we may not even recognise them as living life forms.

I don't think we've ever been visited by beings from outer space, but I don't discount the possibility of it happening sometime in the future. Though if you had the ability to travel through interstellar space, why would you want to land here?

The problem is, we're a 'Type 0 Civilisation', and most of us think like people who are from a 'Type 0 Civilisation'. Because we can't do it, or it breaks the laws of 'our' physics, then it can't be possible.

I don't think we're going to discover life on another planet until we become a 'Type 1 Civilisation', and that won't happen for at least a hundred years. We just don't have the technology for it. I don't think they'll be coming to us.
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Geoff

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Re: Phoenix Spacecraft Lands On Mars
« Reply #18 on: May 29, 2008, 12:12:00 PM »

I think you have to separate the whole UFO thing from the broader question of what might exist out in the universe. UFO's can be discounted on the grounds of improbability, lack of evidence, and the sheer foolishness of the vast majority of their proponents. What may or may not exist in the universe, including life as we understand it, intelligent or otherwise, is another matter altogether. Here I think the possibilities are open to an extent that's actually mind boggling and quite possibly even beyond our conceptual capabilities entirely. We're creatures of one very small and particular place trying to grasp something that's almost infinitely larger and more varied, and my basic objection to the whole UFO thing, apart from what I've said above, is the spectacular lack of imagination that's implied.
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Kevin

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Re: Phoenix Spacecraft Lands On Mars
« Reply #19 on: May 29, 2008, 12:17:53 PM »

Quote from: 1161
my basic objection to the whole UFO thing, apart from what I've said above, is the spectacular lack of imagination that's implied.

Oh yeah baby. I love the arguement when people say "well life on other planets is probably not something we'd recognise" yet expect us to believe that they are similar enough to develope metalurgy, physics, engineering and build remarkably human like spaceships.
Like BM says there is a possibility of some life on other planets, but as for it building ships etc....
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