Thursday, May 29, 2008

Mars Phoenix Lander Phones Home

Via NYTimes -

A satellite radio that carries signals and commands to the Mars Phoenix lander restarted last night, ending a one-day delay in the robotic explorer’s deployment on the Martian surface.

The UHF radio on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter satellite shut down on Tuesday, blocking communications between mission controllers and the newly arrived spacecraft. In a statement posted to the Web site of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration late on Tuesday, the balky orbiter “successfully received information from the Phoenix lander and relayed the information to Earth. The relayed transmission included images and other data collected by Phoenix during the mission’s second day after landing on Mars.”

The cause of the glitch is undetermined, according to the NASA statement. During the radio silence, the lander carried out instructions that had been sent on Monday.

In a press conference on Tuesday, mission officials displayed startlingly clear photos taken by the orbiter of the lander on the Martian surface, its solar panels shining a brilliant bluish against the red soil. Other images showed the heat shield and parachute, along with the mark they made after crashing into the soil. A photograph from the lander showed the parachute and shield in the distance.

The lander’s Canadian-made weather monitoring station is also up and running, and in the Tuesday press conference included a slide of a mock weather report that showed the skies “sunny and clear,” with dust storm activity to the west and temperatures that ranged from minus 22 degrees Fahrenheit to minus 112 degrees.


Check out Tuesday's Astronomy Picture of the Day for a couple of Phoenix snapshots.

1 comment:

  1. The Mars Lander is called "Phoenix". We aleady had a Phoenix as a Lunar Lander. Reminds me of the Bob Newhart show. "Hi, this is my brother, Daryl, and this is my other brother, Daryl." Come one NASA, what flies, why are we trying to get to Mars, and will we make it habitable. How about a lander called "Cathetel", the angel of the Garden? Well, keep that one for your manned mission to Mars.