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Mars Space Science

Mars Phoenix Lander Given The Go 193

stlhawkeye writes "The BBC is running an article which indicates that NASA has green-lit Phoenix, the next Mars mission. NASA also has some details on the mission, which is centered around locating water on the red planet. Originally planned as part of the 2001 Mars Surveyor mission, the lander would launch in 2007. Among the more interesting plans for the mission is a new type of camera to photograph the landing site just before touchdown, and a robotic arm to claw through three feet of soil. The lander would touchdown near the polar ice cap. The mission is characterized as the first 'scout' mission for possible manned landing in the future."
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Mars Phoenix Lander Given The Go

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  • by TripMaster Monkey ( 862126 ) * on Friday June 03, 2005 @03:43PM (#12717001)

    Panic swept through the community today as the Council of Elders confirmed the rumours that the sinister blue plane third from our star is preparing to send yet another of its mechanized invaders to ravage our peaceful world.

    K'Breel, Speaker for the Council, stressed yet again that there was no cause for alarm:

    "By now, it is obvious to even the most peaceful among us that there must be war. But fear not...the glorious Council has spent much time preparing contingincies for such a distasteful eventuality. The impudent inhabitants of the evil blue planet will find us no easy prey. Even now, preparations are being made to launch our vast war effort, where countless young podlings will find glory and honor as we crush the enemy beneath our tendrils."

    When asked to comment upon an alleged image [] of the latest invader, circulated by a cabal of rogue scientists, K'Breel declined.
  • by xmas2003 ( 739875 ) * on Friday June 03, 2005 @03:44PM (#12717013) Homepage
    To Firebird?
  • Do they plan on making the new vehicle able to eject itself from sand dunes?
    • Get a set of 35" BFG Mud Terrain tires and an NP435 tranny, maybe throw a Detroit locker in the rear, and "Git 'er done!"
    • Re:Anti-Sand Tires?! (Score:3, Informative)

      by Rei ( 128717 )
      As though the current vehicles aren't? Opportunity has already moved 1.1 feet [] - and they've been taking their time (trying everything out on Earth before they do on Mars). There was little doubt on the part of the team that they'd be able to get out; this issue has been way overblown by the media and by Slashdot.
    • Do they plan on making the new vehicle able to eject itself from sand dunes?

      You mean like the vehicles already on Mars now? Sure, why not.

  • by JustNiz ( 692889 ) on Friday June 03, 2005 @03:46PM (#12717029)
    Why would Nasa want to land a probe in Phoenix?
  • New camera? (Score:3, Funny)

    by jasonmicron ( 807603 ) on Friday June 03, 2005 @03:47PM (#12717038)
    Among the more interesting plans for the mission is a new type of camera to photograph the landing site just before touchdown. Color perhaps?
    • ...think color video!
    • What's that great big thing heading towards me so very fast? It needs a big, wide sounding name. Ow, ound, round, Ground!

      I wonder if it will be friends with me?...
    • There is no such thing as a color CCD.

      There is no such thing as a color CCD.

      All CCDs just measure intensity, a "color" ccd is just 3 sensors with red, green, and blue filters over them. Handy for humans, but pretty silly from a science perspective. it cuts your resolution into a third and fixes you with a not very useful subset of the spectrum. there are much much more interesting things you can do with spectrometry which is why you have a single awesome plain CCD, and a wheel with lots of differet filter
  • by Steve_Jobs_HNIC ( 513769 ) on Friday June 03, 2005 @03:48PM (#12717043) Journal
    NASA administrator Paul Brown was quoted as saying "We've recently discovered a pervious mission with the name Phoenix, therefor we'll need to change the name to Firebird."

    This was quickly followed up by another response "Actually we've found another mission with the name Firebird, so uhhh.... we're gonna settle with FireFox".

    And a few moments later, "OK, fuckit, we're just gonna call it WammyJoMammy. Take that ya name hoggin bastards"
    • In the Star Trek universe, Phoenix is the name of the first warp capable ship built by Zephram Cochran 10 years after World War III. Hopefully the Borg don't do time travel to destroy it in 2007. Resistance is futile! Oh well - I miss Star Trek Next Generation. The new ones suck!
  • What about the viking experiment?

    Test for life []

    Will this mission carry up the second stage of the experiment? I want to know the results of a reaction to right-handed molecules on mars...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 03, 2005 @03:53PM (#12717085)
    Originally part of the 2001 Mars Surveyor Program, the spacecraft that was built and tested to fly with the Mars Polar Lander mission was stored after the loss of the Surveyor. Renamed Phoenix, the craft is in preparation to finally take flight.

    The damn thing was built and tested. This Phoenix is literally off the shelf.

    I do wonder what elements of this design may have changed if say it had been designed in response to the recent lander successes we have had.
  • I know that lots of smart people have probably thought about this and the landing site and all that, but the notion of sending a probe completely without the ability to move just strikes me as not a smart idea. Even the ability to move very slow would seem to greatly increase the chances that this probe will yield interesting results.
    • Speaking from a design perspective, it's pretty much a decision between "moves" and "doesn't move". The speed at which it has to move (for these probes, anyway) isn't that much of an issue: the issue is the need to include the wheels, mechanisms for turning, mechanisms for obstacle avoidance, and other things that any movement ability would require.

      All of these come with an increased possibility of failure, but more importantly increased weight.

      The tradeoff here is using the weight saved by making the pr
      • It's not an either/or decision.

        For example, the arm must be fairly strong for digging. You could put passive wheels on the thing and push/pull it with the arm. You could make the bottom a smooth bowl, which would mean it would slide down any incline, but could be moved fairly easily on flat terrain with the arm.

        If it moves slowly, it needs almost no built-in intelligence for that, can get by with a single low gear, and has no extra power requirements--you just move it a few inches between commands.

        If a
  • It is ironic that NASA will actually call this the Phoenix Lander. It will really be in Arizona's Painted Desert [], which isn't far from Phoenix.
    • I agree the name is ironic, but for a different reason. They are sending a probe named after a bird that rises from ashes (presumably because of fire) to find ICE?

      On a more serious note, I hope they remembered to convert from English to Metric this time...
      • The mission is so-named because it carries with it the legacies of two earlier, failed, attempts to explore Mars. The lander was built for the Mars Surveyor mission originally planned for 2001, but mothballed by Nasa's administration in 2000. And many scientific instruments for Phoenix were built or designed for Mars Polar Lander which was lost as it entered the Martian atmosphere in 1999.

        Ooooh the irony!

  • The mission is characterized as the first 'scout' mission for possible manned landing in the future."

    What were those two rovers doing there then?
    • Seeking water, performing general research, seeking traces of life on Mars. NOT performing specific kinds of analysis focused especially on human landing - ability to recover usable water, possible obstacles etc.
  • I wish the ESA's Mars probes had this. Then we could've finally answered the question of whether ESA's Beagle 2 landed in a crater, or whether it created a crater. ^.^
  • Among the more interesting plans for the mission is a new type of camera to photograph the landing site just before touchdown ...

    I wonder what purpose this camera would serve? I mean, what is the point of photographing the landing site just before touchdown? What do we achieve? At best we will have a before and after image. Coupled with retro engines, that will probably be blowing up dust, the 'before' picture of the landing site is not even going to be 'pristine'!

    And it is not as if the lander could t

    • End with "We've discovered a new amazing rock." "the rover has discovered an unique rock formation" "We had to retract our steps because the ground beyond the edge of the crater appeared to be too rocky". This photo would be essentially a high-detail map of the operation area of the probe which can be used in planning route, picking interesting features to examine closer, avoid obstacles, and primarily deciding on the right site to start digging, especially in case of some x-ray, infrared, radar, echo etc c
  • A few useful links (Score:5, Informative)

    by waynegoode ( 758645 ) * on Friday June 03, 2005 @03:59PM (#12717152) Homepage
    A few useful links:
  • ...without the Expensive Hardware Lobbing [] scorecard. Play along at home.
  • by Cr0w T. Trollbot ( 848674 ) on Friday June 03, 2005 @04:00PM (#12717159)
    I would be quite interested to learn more details about this "possible manned landing" mentioned in the article. I would especially like to hear that NASA is putting more time, money, and effort into this than the orbiting white elephant known as the "International Space Station," and that they're working on a replacement vehicle (or even a beanpoll or orbital elevator) to replace the antiquated kludge known as the space shuttle.

    When I was growing up, I expected us to have made a manned landing on Mars by now. I fear that NASA's bureauscoliocis has made that event ever-more unlikely under the current bureaucracy.

    Crow T. Trollbot

  • This should be pretty exciting, if the last two missions are anything to go from.

    NASA is saying that they are using even more advanced designs and materials on th Phoenix mission.

    Looks like it is true too, just check out the Robotic Claw [] they designed for digging!

    • Looks like it is true too, just check out the Robotic Claw they designed for digging!

      No, no, THIS [] is the robotic claw they're using.

  • We do have warp drive - Phoenix is ready to launch! Now the question is whether we greet the Vulcans peacefully or do a "In a Mirror, Darkly" and pull out a shottie on them...hmm...
    • It's too bad like 5% of the people here will get that Star Trek reference.

      After 7 years of Voyager and 3 years of Enterprise, no one (sadly) saw the last season of Enterprise - which was GREAT! (that shotgun scene was one of the funniest ST moments ever)

  • Vital (Score:2, Funny)

    by amliebsch ( 724858 )
    This probe is vital to national security. We cannot risk further terrorist attacks on our turbinium mining operations.
  • So many millions of dollars are being invested in locating water on Mars. Instead of wasting this money in this fashion, why don't they simply devise a system to transport massive amounts of water over there?

    In fact, this is what they should do: Build a gigantic ship with a hull large enough to contain billions and billions of gallons of water. Then, pump water from the oceans through a desalination plant and right into this ship. The water would be transported to Mars this way. Another ship would carry see

    • Not really feasible. Such a huge ship would be awfuly hard to build. And what for? Protecting what from what?

      My suggestion: Space elevator with pipeline to the top. Pump the water up. (maybe as steam, this way you get desalinating and transport in one step, plus centrifugal force on the opposite side of the orbit would help pumping it up.)
      Cool it in open space till it forms huge blocks of ice. Attach small, single-use maneuver engines (or small unmanned reusable crafts that would return upon releasing the
    • The problem is that it is cold on Mars. And there may not be enough air pressure to really hold lots of water down for a long time. And any water vapor in the atmosphere would probably be taken away by solar winds due to Mars's lack of a magnetic field.
    • Well for one WATER IS HEAVY.
      To life it off the earth and send it to mars would cost Trillions not Billions.
      The rest of the post is as poorly thought out.
  • In a related vein [], new laboratory studies theorize that terrestrial microbes that hitchhike on our Mars-bound spacecraft could survive the journey and harsh Mars UV environment indefinetely, and even possibly grow if they found water ice.

    NASA's policy on this is summarized here. []
  • Please please please (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TrevorB ( 57780 ) on Friday June 03, 2005 @04:34PM (#12717527) Homepage
    Let this lander have a "tone" system for determining status during Entry Descent and Landing (EDL). These tones are simple radio signals (256 of them in total, if I recall) that sent out simple program and error states (2G, 3G, 4G, 5G, 4G, Chute Deploy, Impact, etc), and also have the effect of sending back nice doppler data giving us an idea of where these landers are. They work nicely because it's an extremely basic analog signal that can be sent out even if you're wrapped up in airbags, falling at 5G with your heat shield on fire, or if you're tumbling end to end in a firey death.

    I'm almost at the point of saying that retro-rocket fired landers are less reliable than their airbag repelling cousins. The airbag method has worked 3 for 3 in the past 8 years. Retrorockets have failed on the single attempt. But I don't think this is a landing technology problem. Landing on the surface of another planet is risky in the best of circumstances (Just before MER-A/B EDL'd I personally gave each of them a 50/50 chance of landing), but if your software isn't perfect, you're screwed.

    Regardless, these tone style systems are critical for learning from our mistakes. They make for great TV as well... Beats waiting around for 20 minutes biting your nails. ;)
  • Use metric not American measurements.

    The last time you forgot this the lander crashed into Mars.
  • Sorry, that name's already taken. ;)
  • The main problem of the MPL was the rocket descending method.
    I don't know if this is the best option. The bouncing airbag was very successfull, so I hope JPL get lucky this time with RetroRockets!
    Go Phoenix Goooooooooooooooooo!

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