NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander has ended operations after repeated attempts to contact the spacecraft were unsuccessful. A new image transmitted by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows signs of severe ice damage to the lander’s solar panels.
Popular Science has named its Best of What’s New 2008 lists for the year’sÂ top technological achievements. NASA’s Mars Phoenix Lander has been named Grand Award winner in the Aviation & Space category. The spacecraft spent more than five months analyzing soil and conditions near the martian north pole.
Other space- and rocket-related products on the list include:
Scaled Composites’ WhiteKnightTwo, which will carry SpaceShipTwo aloft;
The Mars Phoenix Lander has succumbed to the deadly cold of the Martian north pole. Farewell, Phoenix. You’ve served us well.Â And congratulations to JPL, the University of Arizona and all the international partners on a job well done. Bravo.
“If you are reading this, then my mission is probably over.
“This final entry is one that I asked be posted after my mission team announces theyâ€™ve lost contact with me. Today is that day and I must say good-bye, but I do it in triumph and not in grief.
“As Iâ€™ve said before, thereâ€™s no other place Iâ€™d rather be than here. My mission lasted five months instead of three, and Iâ€™m content knowing that I worked hard and accomplished great things during that time. My work here is done, but I leave behind a legacy of images and data….”
NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander has communicated with controllers daily since Oct. 30 through relays to Mars orbiters. Information received over the weekend indicates Phoenix is running out of power each afternoon or evening but reawakening after its solar arrays catch morning sunlight.
“Canadian scientists knew snow was falling on the Red Planet, but the country’s space agency wasn’t allowed to spread the news, reports Tom Spears….
“It should have been a proud Canadian moment in space as our first mission to Mars made a surprising discovery this fall: Snow is falling on the Red Planet. But the Canadian Space Agency wasn’t allowed to talk about its achievement, because its staff was muzzled during the federal election.”
This image, taken by the Surface Stereo Imager (SSI) of NASA’s Phoenix Lander, shows Martian soil piled on top of the spacecraft’s deck and some of its instruments.
NASA MISSION UPDATE 21 October 2008
NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander has finished scooping soil samples to deliver to its onboard laboratories, and is now preparing to analyze samples already obtained. Scientists are anxious to analyze the samples as the power Phoenix generates continues to drop. The amount of sunlight is waning on Mars’ northern plains as late-summer turns to fall.
The spacecraft’s robotic arm is digging into the lower portion of the “Upper Cupboard” and “Stone Soup” areas of the Phoenix worksite. Its Surface Stereoscopic Imager is taking photos of this trenching so scientists can better map out the geology of the Red Planet’s ice table.
This sequence of nine images taken by the Surface Stereo Imager on NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander shows the sun rising on the morning of the lander’s 101st Martian day after landing.
The images were taken on Sept. 5, 2008. The local solar times at the landing site for the nine images were between 1:23 a.m. and 1:41 a.m.
The landing site is on far-northern Mars, and the mission started in late northern spring. For nearly the entire first 90 Martian days of the mission, the sun never set below the horizon. As the amount of sunshine each day declined steadily after that, so has the amount of electricity available for the solar-powered spacecraft.
“The latest forecast on Mars calls for morning fog and swift-moving clouds — along with light snow.
“The surprising weather report was part of the latest scientific findings from NASA’s Phoenix lander, which has been taking measurements at the Martian north pole since May 25.
“At a press briefing Monday at NASA headquarters in Washington and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La CaÃ±ada Flintridge, scientists said the discovery of snow on Mars was made by an instrument that shined a laser into clouds about two miles above the ground, revealing the presence of ice crystals.”
NASA Mars Lander Sees Falling Snow, Soil Data Suggest Liquid Past NASA MISSION UPDATE 29 September 2008
PASADENA, Calif. — NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander has detected snow falling from Martian clouds. Spacecraft soil experiments also have provided evidence of past interaction between minerals and liquid water, processes that occur on Earth.
This image, taken by NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander’s Surface Stereo Imager, documents the delivery of a soil sample from the “Snow White” trench to the Wet Chemistry Laboratory. A small pile of soil is visible on the lower edge of the second cell from the top.This deck-mounted lab is part of Phoenix’s Microscopy, Electrochemistry and Conductivity Analyzer (MECA).
The delivery was made on Sept. 12, 2008, which was Sol 107 (the 107th Martian day) of the mission, which landed on May 25, 2008.
From the location of NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander, above the Martian arctic circle, the sun does not set during the peak of the Martian summer.
This period of maximum solar energy is past — on Sol 86, the 86th Martian day after the Phoenix landing, the sun fully set behind a slight rise to the north for about half an hour.
This red-filter image taken by the lander’s Surface Stereo Imager, shows the sun rising on the morning of sol 90, Aug. 25, 2008, the last day of the Phoenix nominal mission.
The image was taken at 51 minutes past midnight local solar time during the slow sunrise that followed a 75 minute “night.” The skylight in the image is light scattered off atmospheric dust particles and ice crystals.
The setting sun does not mean the end of the mission. In late July, the Phoenix Mission was extended through September, rather than the 90-sol duration originally planned as the prime mission.
Clouds scoot across the Martian sky in a movie clip consisting of 10 frames taken by the Surface Stereo Imager on NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander.
This clip accelerates the motion. The camera took these 10 frames over a 10-minute period from 2:52 p.m. to 3:02 p.m. local solar time at the Phoenix site during Sol 94 (Aug. 29), the 94th Martian day since landing.
Particles of water-ice make up these clouds, like ice-crystal cirrus clouds on Earth. Ice hazes have been common at the Phoenix site in recent days.
The camera took these images as part of a campaign by the Phoenix team to see clouds and track winds. The view is toward slightly west of due south, so the clouds are moving westward or west-northwestward.
The clouds are a dramatic visualization of the Martian water cycle. The water vapor comes off the north pole during the peak of summer. The northern-Mars summer has just passed its peak water-vapor abundance at the Phoenix site. The atmospheric water is available to form into clouds, fog and frost, such as the lander has been observing recently.
Phoenix inserted the four needles of its thermal and conductivity probe into Martian soil during the 98th Martian day, or sol, of the mission and left it in place until Sol 99 (Sept. 4, 2008).
NASA MISSION UPDATE
A fork-like conductivity probe has sensed humidity rising and falling beside NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander, but when stuck into the ground, its measurements so far indicate soil that is thoroughly and perplexingly dry.
“If you have water vapor in the air, every surface exposed to that air will have water molecules adhere to it that are somewhat mobile, even at temperatures well below freezing,” said Aaron Zent of NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., lead scientist for Phoenix’s thermal and electroconductivity probe.
The next sample of Martian soil being grabbed for analysis is coming from a trench about three times deeper than any other trench NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander has dug.
On Tuesday, Aug. 26, the spacecraft will finish the 90 Martian days (or “sols”) originally planned as its primary mission and will continue into a mission extension through September, as announced by NASA in July. Phoenix landed on May 25.
“As we near what we originally expected to be the full length of the mission, we are all thrilled with how well the mission is going,” said Phoenix Project Manger Barry Goldstein of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander has taken the first-ever image of a single particle of Mars’ ubiquitous dust, using its atomic force microscope.
The particle — shown at higher magnification than anything ever seen from another world — is a rounded particle about one micrometer, or one millionth of a meter, across. It is a speck of the dust that cloaks Mars. Such dust particles color the Martian sky pink, feed storms that regularly envelop the planet and produce Mars’ distinctive red soil.
“This is the first picture of a clay-sized particle on Mars, and the size agrees with predictions from the colors seen in sunsets on the Red Planet,” said Phoenix co-investigator Urs Staufer of the University of Neuchatel, Switzerland, who leads a Swiss consortium that made the microscope.
“Taking this image required the highest resolution microscope operated off Earth and a specially designed substrate to hold the Martian dust,” said Tom Pike, Phoenix science team member from Imperial College London. “We always knew it was going to be technically very challenging to image particles this small.”
Phoenix Mars mission scientists spoke today on research in progress concerning an ongoing investigation of perchlorate salts detected in soil analyzed by the wet chemistry laboratory aboard NASA’s Phoenix Lander.
“Finding perchlorates is neither good nor bad for life, but it does make us reassess how we think about life on Mars,” said Michael Hecht of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., lead scientist for the Microscopy, Electrochemistry and Conductivity Analyzer (MECA), the instrument that includes the wet chemistry laboratory.
If confirmed, the result is exciting, Hecht said, “because different types of perchlorate salts have interesting properties that may bear on the way things work on Mars if — and that’s a big ‘if ‘ — the results from our two teaspoons of soil are representative of all of Mars, or at least a significant portion of the planet.”