Thursday, May 15, 2008

Phoenix Mars Lander scheduled to touch down May 25

The Phoenix Mars lander mission is intriguing to me. It will land using thrusters, the first attempt since the crash of the Mars Polar Lander in 1999.

The real test will come during landing. Just before 5 P.M. Pacific time on May 25, the Phoenix lander is scheduled to separate from its rocket-powered "cruise stage" and dive into Mars's atmosphere at a speed of 12,600 miles (20,300 kilometers) per hour relative to the Martian surface.

What comes next is referred to as "seven minutes of hell." After four minutes, the craft will have slowed to 1,100 miles (1,170 kilometers) per hour under the protection of a heat shield. The lander will deploy a parachute at a distance of 7.8 miles (12.6 kilometers) from the surface, then jettison its heat shield, flip over to face its thrusters toward the planet and finally fire them in short, coordinated bursts, touching down at 4:53 P.M. Pacific time (taking into account the 15-minute communication lag between Mars and Earth).

I love scientific precision!

Visit NASA's Phoenix mission page for lot's more info and pictures.

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