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Mars Space NASA

First Pictures From Mars Phoenix Lander 211

Now that the solar panels have been deployed, the Mars Phoenix Lander has begun sending back pictures of the red planet to the hungry space geeks of earth. In just a few weeks the claw will deploy and they'll start digging a hole. The scientists expect to use the dirt to construct a little sand castle which they will defend with several GI Joe action figures, and a bald barbie stolen from their sisters. Oh, and maybe find water or bacteria.
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First Pictures From Mars Phoenix Lander

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  • Wow (Score:5, Funny)

    by tingeber ( 1129619 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @09:53AM (#23543991)
    I saw the pictures of a barren landscape and my jaw fell in total awe... I was never so excited about pictures of dirt.
    • Re:Wow (Score:5, Funny)

      by steelfood ( 895457 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @10:00AM (#23544049)
      Nothing to see here... move along.
    • Re:Wow (Score:5, Insightful)

      by apathy maybe ( 922212 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @10:02AM (#23544091) Homepage Journal

      I saw the pictures of a barren landscape and my jaw fell in total awe...

      I was never so excited about pictures of dirt.
      It isn't dirt.

      Rocks yes, but not dirt.

      And I can't just remember what the other stuff is called, but it ain't dirt.
      • Re:Wow (Score:5, Informative)

        by ceejayoz ( 567949 ) <> on Monday May 26, 2008 @10:36AM (#23544415) Homepage Journal
        I think it's called regolith.
        • by tsa ( 15680 )
          No. It's mud.
        • On Earth, dirt is part of the Regolith []. I'm not sure if dirt, sand, etc. are always regolith.
        • Brine? (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Vandil X ( 636030 )
          They called the dirt layer drudged up while driving in Meridani (Opportunity's site) "brine". But that's because it's a salty, slightly moist soil.

          Not sure what that means for the polar region's dirt, but just tossing that out there.

      • Re:Wow (Score:5, Funny)

        by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @11:42AM (#23545019) Homepage

        And I can't just remember what the other stuff is called, but it ain't dirt.

        Other than for scientific purposes ... is there fundamentally a difference between "dirt" and "fancy Martian stuff"?

        Anyone? I mean really, "fine particulate matter eroded from the local soil" is dirt no matter what planet you're on, innit?

        • by Forbman ( 794277 )
          well...there's a difference between dirt and soil. Dirt = finely ground rock particles of various sizes, from "sand" to "clay".

          Soil = Dirt + organic material.

          Pure dirt would be roughly [sic] equivalent to regolith.

          • Re:Wow (Score:4, Funny)

            by pintpusher ( 854001 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @01:26PM (#23546197) Journal
            No No No, all of you are wrong. George Carlin put it best when he said (paraphrasing) "Dirt is just stuff that's in the wrong place." When it's in a flower pot, it's potting soil, when it's in the compost pile it's, well, compost, or at least on the way there. When it's falling off your shoes onto the couch it's dirt. Get that dirt out of here!

            Likewise, I tell my kids that "weeds" are just "plants" that are growing somewhere someone doesn't want them. We all like dandelions, so when the neighbors complain about the weeds, I say, what, you mean that grass there?

          • Pure dirt would be roughly [sic] equivalent to regolith.

            So, Martian dirt. We're done. The presence of organic matter hasn't been established yet.

            I'll ignore your random insertion of 'sic' [] in relation to your own typing since it makes no sense in context. ;-)

        • by Teancum ( 67324 )
          If you go back to basic Anglo-Saxon English, the proper term for the stuff you can run your fingers through that is found naturally on the ground is:

          (Drumroll please)


          That is where the name of our planet comes from, together with similar names in other languages like "terra".

          So, is there "earth" on Mars, or is it something different, like calling it "mars" (lower case deliberately)? As in "I am planting my corn in the mars tomorrow." Substitute the word "earth" in the above sentence if you think this
        • Real dirt is an organic byproduct of life--shit and rot, to be precise, of living things.

          But I agree that it's semantics~
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        And I can't just remember what the other stuff is called, but it ain't dirt.

        I think the fancy word you may be looking for is sand []. NASA uses all sorts of fancy words, such as dirt & soil [].

        Go ahead and call it dirt.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by rubycodez ( 864176 )
      at least it's a different plot of land this time, down the road from the plot where they faked the moon landing because it's busy with the faked mercury fly-by.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        I've decided that the government faked the Moon and Mars landings to cover up what they're really doing in space. By now there's probably a working military base on the face of the Moon, just waiting for the day that somebody else tries to claim space as their turf.

        Of course, they didn't reckon on finding the black monolith....
    • To be fair, there's ice as well. Ice adds value to my drinks, ergo....
      • by Tango42 ( 662363 )
        No, ice removes value since you get less drink in your glass.
        • Not with a good bartender! Two jiggers of a smooth single malt on the rocks, and the ice is FREE! OK, no additional cost.
          • by Tango42 ( 662363 )
            That not the bartender, just the drink. You drink something that doesn't take up the whole glass, of course there's room ice. You order a pint of coke, say, you'll get less coke if you have ice (the trick is to order it without ice, drink a few mouthfuls [it's still cold at this point, since it's just come out the soda gun], then ask for ice). Incidentally, why would you have ice with a smooth single malt? Good whisky doesn't need ice - just the cheap stuff.
  • by grub ( 11606 ) <> on Monday May 26, 2008 @09:55AM (#23544003) Homepage Journal

    I'm working on my seeminly hundredth coffee this morning after reading and watching Mars stuff until the wee hours. Now you do this to me.

    Expect a bill from my employer.

  • Colour? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 26, 2008 @09:55AM (#23544005)
    Why are the photos black & white?
    • Re:Colour? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Chmcginn ( 201645 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @10:02AM (#23544075) Journal
      It's more scientifically useful to put a really good black & white camera onboard, and then include some filters, than to put a color camera.

      IIRC, pretty much all the color images from previous landers are composites of multiple images with different filters, making a human-eye approximation.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by theurge14 ( 820596 )
        It might be more publically useful to maybe, perhaps, on one of these multi-million dollar missions to see fit to at least put one "real" camera on board one of these landers to placate the taxpaying plebians such as myself. If NASA needs it, I might have a spare Canon digital camera and some duct tape.

        The Titan lander was a huge disappointment in this regard.
        • Re:Colour? (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Hijacked Public ( 999535 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @11:30AM (#23544889)
          Many of the photos taken during the early Apollo missions were shot with hand held Hasselblad cameras []. On the first moon landing Armstrong took a fairly well known shot of Aldrin on the surface. As far as I know all our manned missions since have had Hasselblad on board.

          These [] are more pleasing to the eye than what is being transmitted from the Phoenix lance but a little less scientifically useful. They are also limited to missions that will return, since the film has to be developed.

          A good portion of the gear used now shoots photos in stereo so objects can be more accurately scaled and located. And B&W only sensors can be made more accurate in that regard than color (a quick look at any decent graphic explanation of one will illustrate why). As previous posts have noted, filters can be used to determine color.
        • Re:Colour? (Score:4, Informative)

          by camperdave ( 969942 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @11:53AM (#23545125) Journal
          Do you know how your spare Canon camera works []...? You guessed it, by having a monochrome sensor with appropriate filters in front of certain elements. The cameras on the lander will no doubt out-perform your canon in terms of sensor quality, lens quality, focal range, etc. The only advantage the Canon might have is in the number of megapixels.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Rob Carr ( 780861 )
          Your Canon digital is a black and white camera with filters that make approximate color images.
          Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go back to photoshop to make the photograph of a color chart come out close to the same on the screen as it looks in real life. Then there's the real fun -- getting the thing to print out so that it's close to the chart and the computer screen.
          There are times when I'm about ready to switch to all black-and-white.
      • by FleaPlus ( 6935 )
        Also, at least one false-color image has already been generated from combining photos with different filters. []

        It looks pretty spectacular.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by david.given ( 6740 )

      Why are the photos black & white?

      Because with that particular camera, taking an RGB photo involves making three separate exposures with different filters, transmitting the result back to Earth, and combining them. Given that the lander has been on the ground for less than 24 hours so far, they're still at the quick-glance-around-to-see-where-we-are stage and don't want to waste bandwidth taking the same picture three times. Give them time. Given the PR value of RGB images I'd expect some to start showing up within a few days.

      (In fact a

    • Re:Colour? (Score:5, Funny)

      by R3d M3rcury ( 871886 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @01:45PM (#23546405) Journal
      Actually, the photos are in color. Mars is black and white. The color pictures you see of Mars are actually "false color", meaning that there is no color there whatsoever and NASA just added it so people looking at the pictures on their TVs or the Internet wouldn't be confused.

      It's the same principle as colorizing old movies.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by sam_v1.35b ( 1296319 )

      Digital imaging equipment doesn't see the world in colour. In a digital camera light causes electric charge to build up in photoelectric elements (CMOS or CCD) inside the camera. Lots of light makes lots of charge, less light makes less charge. In other words, an image that the camera sees is translated into brightness values - black, grey and white to you and me.

      To turn this back into a colour image you need to take more than one photo, and place a filter over the top of the camera so that only light

  • by Cthefuture ( 665326 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @10:01AM (#23544057)
    Is there a picture or something that shows roughly where it landed on the planet? I spent some time on their web site but couldn't find anything.
  • Awesome (Score:4, Insightful)

    by stoolpigeon ( 454276 ) * <bittercode@gmail> on Monday May 26, 2008 @10:01AM (#23544065) Homepage Journal
    Those are some amazing shots. I was just looking at them with my 5 year old son. Hopefully by the time he is my age, pictures from Mars will have people in them.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by turgid ( 580780 )

      I'm sure my father said exactly the same thing when the Viking craft landed back in the 1970s.

      It would be great if space exploration went at a faster pace, but as long as there are wars to be fought, don't hold your breath.

      • Re:Awesome (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Teancum ( 67324 ) <[ten.orezten] [ta] [gninroh_trebor]> on Monday May 26, 2008 @07:20PM (#23549529) Homepage Journal
        In all fairness to your father, there was reasonable expectation in the early 1970's that manned missions to Mars would be not only happening but routine by the 1990's. Apollo not only showed it was possible, but even well within our technological realms to accomplish that task.

        What happened was a group of politicians who looked at the huge cash cow that was NASA in the 1960's and deliberately sabotaged the agency to fund their own pork barrel projects of various kinds.

        Unknown to ordinary taxpayers at the time, when Neil Armstrong was stepping on the Moon, NASA as it had been known previously was being dismantled... and that dismantling of NASA along with the layoffs from NASA research centers that basically threw away all of the talent that was accumulated at significant expense.

        This resulted in a glut of electrical engineers at the beginning of the 1970's, which IMHO is one of the things that fueled the "digital revolution" by having teams of engineers who had experience with complex systems from Apollo and the earlier NASA projects that were re-directed into building personal computers and working with modern semi-conductors. It also forced engineers like Steve Wozniak to become entrepreneurial when older engineers were taking positions in private industry for far less than what would be considered typical wages due to this glut.

        You can only guess at what NASA might have accomplished had they been able to maintain their 1966 funding levels in proportion to the overall federal budget to today. I think it could have been done if there had been leadership at the top of the U.S. government willing to spearhead the issue, but those who might have pushed for this sort of future were either killed (JFK and RFK) or involved in other politics such as the Vietnam War (LBJ) that proved to be unpopular and a turn-off to other voters. Ted Kennedy was never really able to pick up the mantle from his older brothers other than to make a significant career in the U.S. Senate.

        When I'm talking to older people (older than myself... I'm more of a GenXer myself) who lived through the Apollo era, they are quite surprised that so little of the Federal budget is spent on NASA. They thought that the 1960's style of spending continued throughout the rest of the 20th Century and beyond, and that NASA has been accomplishing less due to sheer mis-management.

        There is also an assumption that space travel is a difficult task, and along that line of thought that perhaps travel to Mars is simply impossible because with all of the hundreds of billions of dollars we have spent on NASA each year (yes, I know this is incorrect, but bear with me here) that NASA can't figure out how to build anything that can get past the moon unless it is robotic. With the "smartest guys on the planet" trying to figure this out, it must therefore be impossible.

        I would argue that they are somewhat correct in that assessment, but in all fairness to what is NASA today has to do with incredibly unpredictable budgets from year to year and earmarks that had to be spent in certain ways that weren't exactly the most efficient method of spending that money in terms of an overall vision of space exploration.

        We'll get to Mars eventually, but I'm not sure if it will be in the lifetime of my kids or my grandkids.
    • Re:Awesome (Score:5, Funny)

      by Patrik_AKA_RedX ( 624423 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @11:02AM (#23544653) Journal
      Photoshop doesn't take that long to start up...
  • by thrill12 ( 711899 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @10:03AM (#23544097) Journal
    here [] looks like the start of a BSG Episode. It's almost as if Moore has directed it - I expected number Six to turn up any minute, laughing, and invading our computer systems only to begin a sneak attack on the 13th colony.

    Oh wait... this is reality ? In that case, I have another beer - make that five please.... And some peanuts.
  • Colour Imaging? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Not that I don't appreciate NASA's false-colouring of images, but why is it that they never just send a visible spectrum camera up there?
    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by theurge14 ( 820596 )
      They did this on Titan as well. It irritates the heck out of me when the answer is usually "it isn't scientifically relevant". Really? The whole reason we send a probe to Titan is to see what is under the clouds and we don't put an adequate visual camera on board because it isn't 'scientifically relevant'. And space-types wonder why the general public is usually apathetic towards these probe missions.
      • Interesting I get marked as a troll as I'm not the only one who has complained about this. Feel free to pay a visit to Google and you will find many blogs from 2005 saying the same thing. The Wikipedia entry on the Huygens probe mentions the loss of 350 of the 700 pictures the probe took due to a 'operational command error' on ESA's part, and then they further mention how the amateur community took it upon themselves to attempt to clean up the quality and artifacts on the images that were provided.

        I don'
        • by Teancum ( 67324 )
          I have no idea why you are getting modded as a troll, and I hope that the meta-moderators will get this correct and mark this as bad moderation.

          I happen to agree with you, and it seems as though even efforts by the "space enthusiasts" community to help with providing rationale and even funding for more "visible spectrum" filters is deliberately torpedoed by the NASA management.

          The "public" is paying for these images, and certainly deserve to get something for their investment, even if it doesn't provide the
      • by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @02:15PM (#23546693) Journal
        As far as space missions and human-friendly color images, the bottom line is that transmission of images is expensive. Thus, they don't use the human-friendly wavelengths very often. However, there are various mathematical ways to approximate such using the other filters plus some sample calibrations, and this is usually what we see in press-release images from most missions.

        For example, the rover missions usually use infrared filters instead of "red" filters for that end of their range; but they can use that one to approximate the red filter with some adjustments.

        I suspect they will do similar things with this mission once it gets up to speed. The preliminary color images are 2-filter approximations. If they do what the rovers did, they'll use 3 filters that don't match human eyesight but compensate with digital processing to give us "human" approximations. They'll be better than these early 2-filter approximations.

        If you as a human are upset at this approximation; fish, birds and reptiles will be even more angry because they have 4 color cones instead of 3. (We'd probably have four if our mammalian ancestors were not nocturnal. Damned those mammal-squishing dinosaurs who made us hide in the darkness! I wish meteors on you for limiting our color!)
        • For the record, it appears that it's only some birds that have four color cones. Budgerigars (parakeets for us Americans) see UV -- you can ruin a bird's sex life by putting sunscreen on its forehead.
    • Well, they did. Are you telling me you saw nothing in those images? :-) But seriously, they do capture visible spectrum. They need to be able to use the cameras for simply verifying the physical health of the spacecraft, instrument deployment, etc. so visible spectrum images are useful.
    • Not that I don't appreciate NASA's false-colouring of images, but why is it that they never just send a visible spectrum camera up there?
      You do realize that you get the exact same result as a color camera (in fact better) by taking three pictures with red, green and blue filters in front of your black and white camera?
  • Interesting Object? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 26, 2008 @10:11AM (#23544143)
    Anyone know what the object in the back right field is? Sticks out..
  • Well, I'm a Canadian I know what glaciers look like and it certainly looks like the machine is sitting on top of one. Just my tuppence worth.
  • I for one don't hope they find any signs of any kind of life whatsoever. Here's why: []

    An intricate argument but well worth the read. (Bugmenot has passwords if you're too lazy to sign in.)
    • well have to Register "Registration is now required to read magazine articles from Technology Review." before we talk to the aliens. Then those fuckers will space spam us with their Miagra.
  • Let me know when a picture comes down with clear images of the little green men. Then I will get more excited...
    • Let me know when a picture comes down with clear images of the little green men. Then I will get more excited...

      Hey, whatever floats your boat. Me, I'll get excited when I see the pictures of the little green women. ;-)

    • by deft ( 253558 )
      I doubt anyones going to want to go wake up someone so utterly unimpressed with anything... sorry man.

      Dont wait by the phone.
  • by gilesjuk ( 604902 ) <<giles.jones> <at> <>> on Monday May 26, 2008 @10:34AM (#23544387)
    While I can understand that they're looking for water and getting as much information for a future human mission to Mars, there's other places which could be more interesting such as Europa.

    The mission to Europa was canned which is a shame.
    • Don't you remember, the monolith [] placed Europa off limits?
    • by cowscows ( 103644 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @11:15AM (#23544773) Journal
      While Europa is certainly well worth studying, I think mars makes a lot of sense for a couple reasons. First, there's still plenty to learn about it. Second, when you're talking about planetary distances, mars is pretty close, so you get feedback on your missions much quicker. Not only scientific data, but also about how your spacecraft did/didn't perform, which should help improve the designs of future spacecraft. And third, there's a decent amount of satellites already orbiting mars, and the newer landers and such can utilize those satellites to facilitate their mission.

      Basically, I think you get a lot of bang for your buck with mars. Europa would be great, no doubt, but it's likely that for the same cost, they'd only be able to send a smaller probe with less instruments on it, and would get significantly less data out of it. But hopefully we'll get there one day.

    • You can always compile your own space agency from scratch.
  • There is a repeated error on []: The caption used for many images should read Team Members Celebrate and not Team Members' Celebrate

    (Unless they really meant to write Team Members' Celebration?)

    Let's just hope there are no misplaced apostrophes in any of the wee beastie's code. Especially in the firmware update upload controller. That would be delightfully ironic....

  • Those rocks look familiar, looks like the place I ride my dirt bike. WTF.. BRB....

  • The UofA website really doesn't work well with FireFox. Half the time you click on a thumbnail and don't get the the image to show, and the downloads just doesn't work at all.

    I would have expected a university run show to do much better than this.
    • by jefu ( 53450 )

      They seem to be using flash to display images. Who knows why - it is surely simple enough to just load the image into the browser (img tag, anyone?). Does anyone know of any other sources for the images that doesn't require flash? For some reason on my machine about half the flash stuff I try to load doesn't load at all. I think I have the right flash, but it still occurs.

  • by foniksonik ( 573572 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @11:32AM (#23544913) Homepage Journal
    Just so peoples know... a color camera is not as good as a set of Black and White Cameras which only capture light from specific light spectrums... ie: think of it as 1 Red camera, 1 Blue, 2 Green and probably 1 pure Black/White camera, where camera == CCD.

    Look up CCD [] for more details on what it is/does and why using 3 separate CCDs for imaging will get you the highest quality image.
  • of the red planet ...

    This issue was discussed in a series of posts on the last Mars mission, that left me more confused than I was before: is the red color in the photo on the main page the real color of the Mars surface (or at least an accurate reconstruction of what a human eye would see with ambient light there) or is it something NASA arbitrarily adds to impress viewers with notions about "the red planet"?

  • OK, the poles look pretty much like the other locations where landers have taken pictures. Now what?

    So far, from what we know of Mars terrain, it makes Nevada look exciting.

  • by FleaPlus ( 6935 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @02:29PM (#23546871) Journal
    Space biologist-turned-blogger Keith Cowing of NASA Watch was one of the participants in the Mars settlement analogue project over at Devon Island [] neart Earth's north pole. He posted yesterday that the photos that Phoenix has been sending back from the Martian north pole remind him a -lot- of the permafrost-created ground patterns he observed near Devon Island, and posted some comparison photos: []

    I had a rather strange case of deja vu tonight as the first images from Phoenix flashed on my computer screen. The image on the left was taken on 25 May 2008 on Mars at 68 deg North. I took the picture on the right on Devon Island, 75 deg North in July 2007. I'm just saying ... those polygonal patterns on Mars are VERY familiar.
  • Apparently they were able to image the thing from orbit while on its way down on the chute: []

    They mentioned giving it a try at a press conference, but gave it really small odds because the image size is much smaller than the potential landing range drift. Lucky hit.
  • Shoulda' snuck a Mars bar in there so it fell out when the panels deployed.

    Funniest. Prank. Ever.

"I have not the slightest confidence in 'spiritual manifestations.'" -- Robert G. Ingersoll