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Another Mars mission comes to a close

NASA officially brought the Phoenix mission to a close, as the U.S. space agency will cease operations and officially declare an end to the mission five months after it explored Mars.

The $428 million mission was originally scheduled for a three-month mission, but NASA was able to give it two extensions before the harsh Martian environment finally claimed it.  It has helped collect data on the northern arctic Martian plains, while helping collect valuable data that can be used for future missions.

"At this time, we're pretty convinced that the vehicle is no longer available for us to use," said Barry Goldstein, Phoenix project manager.  "We're actually ceasing operations, declaring an end to mission operations at this point."

Phoenix helped researchers learn some Martian soil is alkaline, and also helped confirm that ice may have melted on the Martian surface in the past.

The lander went quiet and has run out of sunlight necessary to power its batteries, while the temperature on Mars continues to drop.  Not completely unexpected, researchers still hoped they would be able to get another week or two of weather research out of the lander.

Engineers will have two satellites orbiting the Red Planet just in case the spacecraft responds, but NASA isn't optimistic they'll hear anything.  Even though the mission is over, researchers look forward to analyzing the large amount of data Phoenix helped collect during its mission.

"Phoenix has given us some surprises, and I'm confident we will be pulling more gems from this trove of data for years to come," said Peter Smith, Phoenix Principal Investigator working at the University of Arizona.

The last communication from Phoenix was received last Sunday.

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Obvious question...
By Indianapolis on 11/11/2008 4:03:37 PM , Rating: 2
I heard this story on the radio today, and after reading this post I'm left with the same, obvious, question. What happens when the sun again shines on the lander?

RE: Obvious question...
By judasmachine on 11/11/2008 4:16:04 PM , Rating: 2
Just a shot in the dark here but, I think it will probably drain it's battery soon, and then become covered in dust, so that when the sun does come back it won't matter.

RE: Obvious question...
By elT on 11/11/2008 4:17:39 PM , Rating: 5
NASA HQ gets the "Windows needs your permission to continue" UAC message. :P

RE: Obvious question...
By MrBlastman on 11/11/2008 4:39:48 PM , Rating: 3
I guess it didn't come with a sleep and wake on sunlight Energy Star Compliant power savings feature... :(

RE: Obvious question...
By CheesePoofs on 11/11/2008 4:38:07 PM , Rating: 5
That won't happen until about a year from now, and I believe the general consensus from the Phoenix lander team is that the cold will make the lander unable to restart (not to mention the accumulation of stuff on the solar panels ... they might not even get any sunlight).

But if it actually does happen, Phoenix will end up truly living up to its name. :)

RE: Obvious question...
By judasmachine on 11/11/2008 4:40:44 PM , Rating: 4
But if it actually does happen, Phoenix will end up truly living up to its name. :)

That would be awesome.

RE: Obvious question...
By Ringold on 11/11/2008 9:07:18 PM , Rating: 3
I don't know if it is far enough north on Mars for it to take place, but carbon dioxide may freeze around it, and then in the summer I believe I've read the sublimation back to gas can be violent. I think the thing is supposed to be completely destroyed.

Could be wrong, though.

RE: Obvious question...
By marvdmartian on 11/12/2008 10:06:09 AM , Rating: 2
Nah, the martian's will have turned it into a bar by then, complete with neon lit signs! ;)

RE: Obvious question...
By MonkeyPaw on 11/11/2008 4:47:57 PM , Rating: 5
What happens when the sun again shines on the lander?

NASA will find it covered in parking tickets with a boot locked on the wheel.

RE: Obvious question...
By cheetah2k on 11/11/2008 5:40:58 PM , Rating: 5
I don't think the Deceptacons issue parking tickets...

RE: Obvious question...
By TimberJon on 11/12/2008 5:45:50 PM , Rating: 2
If someone gives it a spark, it will be attacking us here on Earth for sending the poor guy over there and shutting it down in the freezing north. I would.

RE: Obvious question...
By Omega215D on 11/11/2008 8:11:41 PM , Rating: 5
Or if it is parked in a bad neighborhood then it'll probably be missing its wheels and be up on blocks.

RE: Obvious question...
By achintya on 11/12/2008 8:57:37 AM , Rating: 3
I read somewhere that when winter comes carbon dioxide and other gases will freeze onto the solar panels which will become very brittle. Ultimately the panels will just fall off. Therefore there would be no chance of Phoenix 'resurrecting' when summer arrives.

RE: Obvious question...
By omnicronx on 11/12/2008 2:03:35 PM , Rating: 2
Where Phoenix differs from other landers/rovers is that it landed on one of the poles. I really don't think they ever expected it to run that long. How cold do you think its going to get with no sunlight and sand/snow storms that rival what Antarctica has to offer.

RE: Obvious question...
By stirfry213 on 11/12/2008 3:46:37 PM , Rating: 2
Antarctica doesn't hold a finger to what Mars can conjure up. -200F and lower temps. Carbon Dioxide sublimates into a solid at -109F. Basically, the lander is toast.

A scant $428 million
By sgw2n5 on 11/11/2008 6:00:45 PM , Rating: 4
This amazing research was accomplished for under a half billion dollars. Imagine what we could afford to do if they would have diverted even a portion of that $750 billion bank bailout to NASA...

We could have colonized Mars, instead we bailout rich and inept bankers.

/this has nothing to do with the topic, just a thought.

RE: A scant $428 million
By Tsuwamono on 11/11/2008 7:15:18 PM , Rating: 2
except the USA didnt have the 750 billion laying around.. they borrowed it on behaf of the banks.

<3 the bank act of canada (we have no need to bail out our banks)

RE: A scant $428 million
By MadMan007 on 11/11/2008 9:10:00 PM , Rating: 2
Interesting read. I wonder how the British Bank of England system didn't manage to keep its hold in Canada:
The bank began operations on March 11, 1935, after the passage of the Bank of Canada Act. Initially the bank was founded as a privately owned corporation in order to ensure it was free from political influence. In 1938, under Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King, it became a Crown corporation[2], fully owned by the government with the governor appointed by Cabinet.

It would be fantastic if the US could get rid of the Fed and have a, you know, CONSTITUTIONAL system where the government controls currency.

RE: A scant $428 million
By Regs on 11/12/2008 8:49:19 AM , Rating: 1
Do you really want someone like Geroge W. Bush in control over our money?

RE: A scant $428 million
By Regs on 11/13/2008 1:09:09 PM , Rating: 2
Oh I see, people want the government to have complete control over how money is entered into the market and not the forces of the free market itself. Who needs democracy?

You're brilliant.

I apologize
By KaiserCSS on 11/11/2008 4:13:10 PM , Rating: 2
...and also helped confirm that ice may have melted on the Martian surface in the past.

I'm sorry for being such a nit-picker, but does anyone else see the logical fallacy in this statement? How do you confirm something that may have been? Might as well write it as such:

"...and also helped confirm that ice may or may not have melted on the Martian surface in the past.(Who knows? Not NASA! However, we can confirm that we don't know. It's like Schrödinger's ice up there!)".

RE: I apologize
By bunnyfubbles on 11/11/2008 4:27:40 PM , Rating: 2
just like with all theories, evidence collected supports the theory to be true but could still be proven otherwise

RE: I apologize
By Cappadocious on 11/11/2008 4:31:01 PM , Rating: 2
I have to say I thought the same thing when I read it.

RE: I apologize
By sigilscience on 11/11/2008 5:24:53 PM , Rating: 2
They probably should have used the word "support" instead of confirm, I agree.

By pauldovi on 11/11/2008 4:36:38 PM , Rating: 5
Steve Jobs is just showing on the kill switch to some of his friends....

By KaiserCSS on 11/11/08, Rating: -1
By SonicIce on 11/11/2008 4:50:33 PM , Rating: 2
someone got pissed... mission accomplished. just kidding. chill out man :)

Sell it on eBay
By SpaceJumper on 11/12/2008 10:00:34 PM , Rating: 2
NASA should sell it on eBay and some rich people will buy it for the fun of owning it.

Most likely...
By Raidin on 11/13/2008 2:05:51 PM , Rating: 2
In a few hundred years, the Enterprise will be brought to Mars by emissaries of the highly-intelligent lifeform, P'nix.

I hate journalists that can't write or fact check.
By Surak on 11/11/08, Rating: -1
By foolsgambit11 on 11/11/2008 6:21:11 PM , Rating: 3
While his sentence may have been vague, it doesn't have to mean what you think it means. The sentence, 'Engineers will send two satellites....' would mean what you're saying his sentence means. But his sentence only states that at some future point there will be two satellites orbiting Mars, with no declaration about their current location.

In other words, the truth is both that engineers will have two satellites orbiting Mars (assuming no technical difficulties in converting between metric and imperial measurements again....), and 'they DO have two satellites orbiting Mars'.

RE: I hate journalists that can't write or fact check.
By Bladen on 11/12/2008 5:14:49 AM , Rating: 2
Saying that "event X will happen" is contrary to saying "event x is happening". To make both statements correct at the same time, you must say "event x is happening and will continue to happen (or will happen again)".

By Bladen on 11/12/2008 5:17:25 AM , Rating: 2
Actually, now that I think about it, the sentence "Engineers will continue to have two satellites orbiting the Red Planet just in case the spacecraft responds" would have made sense.

By Hieyeck on 11/11/2008 7:38:27 PM , Rating: 1
While I agree it's a bit misleading, I believe he meant to say something along the lines of:

"Engineers have will have two satellites orbiting the Red Planet, listening, just in case the spacecraft responds"

or I could be completely wrong and that in the future, two satellites will be in the vicinity of Mars and be able to listen for a signal.

By drebo on 11/11/2008 7:39:32 PM , Rating: 1
WTB jerks that understand the present perfect tense.

By TimberJon on 11/12/2008 6:03:45 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah Surak, you need to chill. The quote is written based on Time of Event. It means, as it means to all the rest of us that read SOMETHING on a regular basis...

"by the time the spacecraft is on the sun side of the planet in a position to send a signal, two satellites will be present to pick up any readings"

Who cares if the article says that they will be or ARE there, if we already know that they are there?

It doesn't say that we will be sending satellites there in time to pick up the signal.

"Folks that want porn can buy an Android phone." -- Steve Jobs
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