Mars Touchdown on Sunday! Find a Way to Watch!
You probably won’t see it on TV, since no one follows space stuff anymore but us hypergeeks! Sigh. But it will be SO VERY COOL!
“After a nine-month, 422-million-mile trip from Earth that began last August, NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander will catch up to the red planet Sunday to begin its three-month science mission. Its mission is series of soil analysis projects that involve digging lightly into the Mars surface to study the history of water, ice and life potential in the planet’s soil. But before those soil analysis projects can even get under way, the Phoenix has to successfully land on the planet’s surface, which, as NASA knows by experience, isn’t a sure thing. More than eight years ago, in December 1999, NASA’s Mars Polar Lander project came to a disastrous end when the craft’s descent engines shut down early as it prepared to land on the Martian surface. The lander went out of control from a high altitude, crashed and was destroyed. Since that mission, changes were made in the design of the Phoenix, the next-generation lander that is expected to touch down on Mars at 7:38 p.m. EDT Sunday. Once the Phoenix lands, NASA won’t know if the mission was successful until 15 minutes and 20 seconds later. That’s how long it will take for radio signals to get back to Earth with confirmation of a safe landing. The radio signals move at the speed of light and will travel approximately 171 million miles to reach Earth. The system improvements on the lander stem from the results of a NASA review board, which investigated the failure of the Mars Polar Lander (MPL) mission, said David Spencer, the Phoenix deputy project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.”