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Artist's depection of the Phoenic Mars Lander approaching the Martian surface.  (Source: NASA)
The Mars-bound craft is working perfectly and is on task for its nearing rendezvous with the little red rock.

NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander, after a short trajectory maneuver, is now on course and schedule for its May 25 landing on the Red Planet. The lander launched aboard a Delta II rocket on August 4, 2007, and will have reached the surface of Mars in just over nine and a half months.

The Phoenix is one of the first ground vehicles for NASA's Mars Exploration Program. It will return valuable data on the climate and geology of Mars, furthering the ultimate goals of determining whether life exists or ever existed on Mars, and returning to us vital knowledge with which to prepare manned expeditions.

Based on data collected by the Mars Odyssey Orbiter, NASA scientists have tentatively chosen what appears to be a safe landing zone for the Phoenix craft. Several factors were key in the choice, including the overall geography of the region and data which suggests water ice lies just below the surface of the large plain at the destination.

"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," explained Peter Smith, the principle investigator for the Phoenix mission.

The proposed landing site is known as "Green Valley," and lies in the planet's northern hemisphere. The lack of large rocks to interfere with the landing and the presence of water ice makes the 62 by 12 mile ellipse targeted area an ideal choice for the mission. Experts will make the final decision on the landing zone after further scrutiny of the area by the Mars Odyssey Orbiter later this month.

The Phoenix project is led by Peter Smith at the University of Arizona, Tuscon, and is a joint project between UA, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Lockheed Martin, the Canadian Space Agency, the University of Neuchatel in Switzerland, the universities of Aarhus and Copenhagen in Denmark, the Max Planck Institute in Germany and the Finnish Meteorological Institute.



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By Shawn on 4/17/2008 5:01:00 PM , Rating: 3
You mean besides Odyssey and Spirit? What can this one do that those can't?




By 91TTZ on 4/17/2008 9:38:39 PM , Rating: 3
According to the info on NASA's page, this isn't even a vehicle. It's just a lander. It will sit there in place and a robotic arm will scoop stuff up.


Other planets
By KHajtman on 4/18/2008 6:46:10 AM , Rating: 2
I think we should send orbiters to Uran and Neptun. They werent visited since Voyagers. NASA should send missions to unexplored planets, we can expect more interesting result from an orbiter than from a stationary lander.




RE: Other planets
By Screwballl on 4/18/2008 5:00:11 PM , Rating: 2
Lets get the closer ones taken care of first, then we can worry about those beyond the asteroid belt


Conspiracy?
By Mitch101 on 4/17/08, Rating: -1
RE: Conspiracy?
By Mitch101 on 4/17/08, Rating: -1
RE: Conspiracy?
By bhieb on 4/17/2008 10:16:13 AM , Rating: 5
Yes the first two proved there WAS water on Mars, but not where it is now. The first step toward a manned mission is to find a source of water to convert in to fuel for the trip home (assuming the 2 part mission proposal of course).

And NO Pluto is not a planet, so get over it.


RE: Conspiracy?
By Ryanz on 4/17/2008 10:17:47 AM , Rating: 3
I just got done watching a program on the History channel called "The Universe" and for the hour block they were talking about Jupiter and it's moons. There is a guy creating a robot to go to Europa (as you mentioned) to drill through the 6 miles of ice on it's surface and swim around the water below to try and find basic lifeforms. He said something to the effect of his robot being completely finished by 2016 and hopefully on Europa by 2019. It really is a shame our space programs are so underfunded...the universe is an amazing place...and I truly believe our answers about life and why we are all here are out there...if only we could study it better.


RE: Conspiracy?
By nugundam93 on 4/17/2008 11:02:44 AM , Rating: 2
so will that robot be carried on a spaceship named "Tsien"? :)


RE: Conspiracy?
By Ryanz on 4/17/2008 11:12:37 AM , Rating: 1
I'm assuming you're making a joke that is flying over my head...but here is more information on the robot (DepthX) that will one day attempt to traverse Europa's waters:

http://www.frc.ri.cmu.edu/depthx/index.html

http://www.geo.utexas.edu/zacaton/depthx/

enjoy!


RE: Conspiracy?
By nugundam93 on 4/18/2008 1:43:56 PM , Rating: 2
Ryan mentioned a guy planning to send a robot to Europa, one of Jupiter's moons.

in Arthur Clarke's "2010", China's Tsien landed on Europa to refuel and discovered life there...at the cost of all lives onboard and Tsien itself.


RE: Conspiracy?
By bhieb on 4/17/08, Rating: 0
RE: Conspiracy?
By geddarkstorm on 4/17/2008 12:20:10 PM , Rating: 2
You really think there could be life on Venus? http://www.crh.noaa.gov/fsd/astro/venus.php

I'm sorry, we can't even get probes to survive on the planet, they literally get crushed or melted into slag. It's nothing but a giant pressure cooking, acid filled, churning ball of lava. As far from habitable to life as you can get less trying to live on a star or something.


RE: Conspiracy?
By SilentSin on 4/17/2008 3:25:23 PM , Rating: 3
Every time somebody makes a broad, generalizing comment such as that a short time afterwards someone finds life living in those exact same circumstances. We struggle to make probes to examine the most extreme depths of the our own oceans and the volcanic activities that happen there. Is there life in those areas? You betcha.

The resilience of life never ceases to amaze me, I wouldn't count anything out. It's far and beyond extraordinary that life even exists at all, is it so much more far fetched to imagine that life could show up in areas that you don't expect? However unlikely it may be, thorough exploration is the only way to find out.


RE: Conspiracy?
By whirabomber on 4/18/2008 6:15:47 AM , Rating: 2
If the Enterprise crew landed on Venus, there would be life, breathable air, and women for Kirk to seduce. Since none of that seems real at the moment, we'll have to settle for NASA sending robots to Mars to look for life, water, or some economical reason to go to Mars.

I do agree that life shows up in suprising places, but I haven't seen an energy survey of Mars to see if there is enough of the suns energy or geothermal energy to support life on Mars. Life uses energy, life converts energy, and sustainable life needs a sustainable level of energy to survive. Scientist know how much energy it takes to create life so why haven't I seen any theories on how much energy it would take to believe there is a reasonable chance to find life on any given planet?


RE: Conspiracy?
By Simon128D on 4/17/2008 10:20:42 AM , Rating: 2
To prove that there is water is not the primary mission of this lander. Its mission is to analyse and send back information on the selected area and atmosphere for a future man mission to Mars.

This lander has instruments that the others have lacked or are more sensitive.

I agree with you that we should be studying the other planets and moons, and the media attention on Mars sickens me to be honest but without media help going to Mars would probably never happen so... Europa would be on top of my list. What ever happened to that drilling probe NASA were talking about years ago. Where they were going to have a lander drill through the ice sheet to see if there might be any cryovolcanic life forms or extremophile bacteria?

They just can't make one lander, probe or satellite that will do everything that's needed because every time we send something to the planet there are always new questions and to answer those questions new devices have to be made to prove or disprove any theories or discoveries.


RE: Conspiracy?
By masher2 (blog) on 4/17/2008 4:04:27 PM , Rating: 3
> "Europa would be on top of my list"

The moon tops mine. Industrially and economically, its by far the most important stellar body. Practical solar power unfiltered by clouds or atmosphere 24 hours a day, limitless free vacuum (priceless for many industrial process), a shallow gravity well that makes shipping to earth (as well as building large structures) extremely easy, and an abundance of raw materials all highly useful here on earth.


RE: Conspiracy?
By freeagle on 4/17/2008 6:48:54 PM , Rating: 2
they are talking about scientifically, not industrially nor economically, interesting objects


RE: Conspiracy?
By Ringold on 4/17/2008 9:00:59 PM , Rating: 4
Don't think so short term.

Push for the moon, get infrastructure there, make travel common there, get industry on the moon, make it common place. What naturally happens? The cost of accessing everything else not on Earth's surface goes down due to Earth-Lunar transit becoming a commodity business.

Masher has pointed out that getting to the moon is half the battle of going all the way to Mars, in terms of delta-v.

Getting to a point then where we can launch probes cheaply from a profitable, self-sustaining lunar colony then makes exploring the rest of the solar system vastly easier.

People seem to think business and capitalism is dirty, and thus shouldn't be considered by high-minded intellectuals interested in science, but life's not that simple.

If ones goal is permanently colonizing other locations, then making it profitable is the only way to ensure survival of the colony.


RE: Conspiracy?
By freeagle on 4/18/2008 6:40:17 AM , Rating: 2
I do agree with all the points he made, as well as yours now. But the talk was about the interesting objects from scientific point of view, not how to make those researches cheaper or more accessible.


RE: Conspiracy?
By fezzik1620 on 4/17/2008 10:20:52 AM , Rating: 4
"ALL THESE WORLDS ARE YOURS EXCEPT EUROPA. ATTEMPT NO LANDINGS THERE."


RE: Conspiracy?
By Xenoterranos on 4/17/2008 11:20:55 AM , Rating: 2
Nice Clarke ref.

I bet that's the first place he went, you know. :)


RE: Conspiracy?
By Chernobyl68 on 4/17/2008 12:35:25 PM , Rating: 2
no, he would have gone the the tycho crater first I think.


RE: Conspiracy?
By T4RTER S4UCE on 4/18/2008 4:34:17 PM , Rating: 2
He is the Moons new ruler.
He doesn't know what to do with it yet,
But he will think of something...


RE: Conspiracy?
By judasmachine on 4/17/2008 11:00:55 AM , Rating: 2
I'm sure I'm missing your point, or picking my battle, but Venus is out of the question as far as landers or people go. The heat, and atmospheric pressure melts and crushes anything we send there.


RE: Conspiracy?
By geddarkstorm on 4/17/2008 12:23:02 PM , Rating: 2
We have never proved there is life of any sort what so ever on Mars, or that there ever was or ever could be. That's the point of studying it more--why here on Earth and not there?

We also need to find water deposits before we can set up a mission or base there; something the other rovers have not and cannot do if the water is under the surface.


RE: Conspiracy?
By Digimonkey on 4/17/2008 10:19:20 AM , Rating: 3
I believe it's because the UAC is greasing the right hands.


RE: Conspiracy?
By murphyslabrat on 4/17/2008 10:48:32 AM , Rating: 2
I assure you, I DO want to go to Mars; so stop asking me.


RE: Conspiracy?
By kzrssk on 4/17/2008 11:33:15 AM , Rating: 2
Microsoft only created the UAC to annoy people. Still a planet. :P


RE: Conspiracy?
By headbox on 4/17/2008 10:35:28 AM , Rating: 5
"I'm not a conspiracy supporter but why another lander on mars?"

Seriously? You really logged in to say that? That's really a question of yours? Wow.

Should we dig a one inch hole in the ground in North America and say "well I guess no dinosaurs lived here" and never dig again?

Don't let that urge to have a first post drive you to madness.


RE: Conspiracy?
By Xenoterranos on 4/17/2008 11:22:10 AM , Rating: 4
"Don't let that urge to have a first post drive you to madness."

I'm stealing this. kthxbai.


RE: Conspiracy?
By darkpaw on 4/17/2008 11:24:21 AM , Rating: 2
No kidding, we barely have enough space budget to cover one planet with any reasonable effort.

In the years that they've been there, the Mars rovers have covered areas measured in miles... on an entire planet. We could have thousands of bots up there and not be able to check a fraction of the planet.

One step at a time, seriously.


RE: Conspiracy?
By werepossum on 4/18/2008 4:36:10 PM , Rating: 2
Another good reason for landing another rover on Mars is that Representative Sheila Jackson Lee wants NASA to drive it over to where the astronauts planted that American flag, which will be very inspirational.

Seriously, she actually asked why they hadn't done that in an open Congressional hearing.


RE: Conspiracy?
By Trippytiger on 4/17/2008 10:40:08 AM , Rating: 2
The problem with Venusian landings is that Venus has an incredibly hot and corrosive atmosphere, so the probes sent there tend to have lifespans on the order of hours, not years like the current Mars rovers. It's not really a great investment.


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