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Mars Express will demonstrate its ability to send test commands to the Phoenix lander during the mission

A new level of cooperation between the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA is being tested. The ESA’s Mars Express mission control team will monitor NASA’s Phoenix lander during its entry, decent, landing phase (EDL). The Phoenix lander is scheduled to land on the surface of Mars on May 26, 2008.

The ESA says it will point Mars Express towards the planned entry trajectory of the Phoenix lander on May 25 and prepare to record data as the lander makes entry into the Martian atmosphere. The data recorded will be used to compare the actual entry profile with the predicted entry profile of the Phoenix lander.

Michel Denis, Spacecraft Operations Manager at ESOC said, “We have tested a specially designed slew for our spacecraft, and scheduled a series of data downloads immediately after Phoenix's landing; NASA will receive our recorded data about one hour later.”

Mission controllers from the ESA will use the Mars Express Lander Communications (MELACOM) system that was originally used to communicate with the Beagle 2 lander. The Beagle 2 lander separated from Mars Express in 2003 with no complications, but mission controllers were unable to make contact with the lander after it entered the Martian atmosphere.

Peter Schmitz, project lead for Mars Express Phoenix support, said in a statement, “Our MELACOM data will enable NASA to confirm the Phoenix lander's descent characteristics, including speed and acceleration through the Mars atmosphere."

The MELACOM data recorded by Mars Express will be downloaded to Earth using NASA Deep Space Terminals DSS-15 and DSS-25. The data will take 15 minutes and 20 seconds at light speed to reach the ESA’s European Space Operation’s Center. After monitoring the EDL phase of Phoenix’s decent the Mars Express spacecraft will fly over the Phoenix’s landing zone again and monitor signals transmitted from the surface.

In all, the Mars Express will monitor signals from the Phoenix 14 times over the course of a week. One of these monitoring attempts will be used to demonstrate and confirm that Mars Express can be used as a relay station to receive data from the Martian surface and relay test commands to the Phoenix lander.

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Where does it all end?
By PhoenixKnight on 5/22/2008 4:53:47 PM , Rating: 5
First the British government puts up cameras in public places to monitor their citizens. Then they want to monitor all emails and text messages. Now they're going to monitor American spacecraft on Mars! Where does this end, people?!

RE: Where does it all end?
By MRwizard on 5/22/2008 10:40:18 PM , Rating: 4
when they decide to stop colonizing everything :p

RE: Where does it all end?
By FaceMaster on 5/24/2008 2:08:30 PM , Rating: 2
If it wasn't for US you'd ALL BE BLACK!

RE: Where does it all end?
By JonnyDough on 5/25/2008 1:57:32 PM , Rating: 3
If it were not for Great Britain, we'd most likely be Native American, French, or Spanish. We would NOT be black.

I really don't mean to put this lightly: You good sir, are an idiot.

African Americans were brought over from Africa by WHITE PEOPLE. Which just goes to show you either have no understanding of American History, or are simply an ignorant racist.

Either way, you just displayed the genetically passed European superiority complex that led our white ancestors to ravage lands with our ethnocentric mentality. In simpler terms, you just served to validate the comments above.

RE: Where does it all end?
By FaceMaster on 5/25/2008 7:54:32 PM , Rating: 2
We would NOT be black

You seem to be very pleased about this. Are YOU racist? It's because I'm black, isn't it?

RE: Where does it all end?
By JonnyDough on 5/27/2008 2:20:45 AM , Rating: 2
If it wasn't for US you'd ALL BE BLACK!

See, I thought when you said "US" you were self inclusive and that you meant that you were a white European, since that was the context of the conversation. How erroneous of me to go actually comprehending what I was reading. Now that you've made a fool of yourself it seems you're trying to play a race card that isn't even yours. I don't mean to sound further insulting since we're merely two people online...but that is pretty pathetic.

RE: Where does it all end?
By FaceMaster on 5/30/2008 2:18:59 PM , Rating: 2
lol you sound as if you started talking, feeling all high and mighty about being able to use super extensive vocabulary to attempt to downgrade my argument... then slowly realizing the fact that you're wrong half way through, gradually quietening in tone until you stop and run away from the embarrassment.

By Kougar on 5/22/2008 4:59:54 PM , Rating: 5
I hope they remember to convert everything back from Metric to Imperial units, this time!

RE: Units
By kontorotsui on 5/22/2008 8:04:53 PM , Rating: 2
Was going to say that! +1 to you.

RE: Units
By PrinceGaz on 5/22/2008 10:07:03 PM , Rating: 2
+1. I do wonder why any serious scientists are even using Imperial measurements instead of SI units in the first place though.

RE: Units
By Jedi2155 on 5/23/2008 1:18:39 AM , Rating: 2
It was an engineer from an outside contractor actually....

RE: Units
By lompocus on 5/22/08, Rating: 0
RE: Units
By Samus on 5/23/2008 2:07:03 AM , Rating: 2
This isn't parlement! yay!

What's the point?
By trajan on 5/22/2008 7:39:36 PM , Rating: 2
I don't actually mean this in a snarky way, it's a sincere question, if anyone has answers. Why are we working to make sure the ESA can also control our craft? I don't have a problem with it but it seems like a waste of resources.

The one big possibility that strikes me is that it might make communications easier given the time differences / rotation of the Earth. Or maybe its a worthwhile effort to create goodwill and foster intercooperation, generally.

RE: What's the point?
By White Widow on 5/22/2008 11:42:06 PM , Rating: 2
I'm not 100% sure what you mean by "control".

I don't think the ESA orbiter has any "control" over the NASA craft, it will simply be monitoring the descent; something NASA cannot do. Gathering actual landing trajectories and information so that NASA can compre this data with predicted values will be extremely helpful in understanding how their (NASA's) systems work and what can be improved.

As for the later-stage communications, attempting to use the ESA orbiter to relay signals back to Earth is also beneficial. Even though the PRIMARY communication system from the NASA lander uses direct-to-Earth communication, knowing the ESA craft can act as a backup - or as you suggest in cases where the NASA lander cannot communicate directly with Earth - seems well worth it.

RE: What's the point?
By Klober on 5/23/2008 2:11:39 PM , Rating: 2
Reading comprehension FTW. Check out the last sentence of the article - "One of these monitoring attempts will be used to demonstrate and confirm that Mars Express can be used as a relay station to receive data from the Martian surface and relay test commands to the Phoenix lander ." He was correct in that it appears from the article that there may be plans to control the Phoenix lander through the Mars Express.

RE: What's the point?
By Strunf on 5/23/2008 3:52:40 PM , Rating: 2
All your base are belong to us :D

Michel Denis
By jbartabas on 5/22/2008 3:56:44 PM , Rating: 2
I believe it is "Michel Denis", with one "n".

By marsbound2024 on 5/22/2008 5:11:54 PM , Rating: 2
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory says it will land May 25th (early evening/mid afternoon in the US). See the link:

Spelling Nazi lives!!!! mwuhahahaha
By Adsman on 5/22/2008 5:36:42 PM , Rating: 2
Descent, not "decent"

(Spelling Nazi runs shrieking from the room)

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