Phoenix Landing Events On Mars To Be Broadcast On Sunday Night TV

This image and others can be found here.

UPDATED

MISSION TO LAND PHOENIX HAS SUCCEEDED.

(As a side note I do not know why Discovery Channel changed their plans for airing coverage of this event.  But as I hope you found CNN did a great job for an hour.  Pictures of Mars from Phoenix will be on this blog as they come in tonight.)

If you are a lover of space travel and the mysteries of the universe this weekend will prove to be an exciting one. Many of us have been keeping track of the development of the Phoenix spacecraft as it holds great potential to better understand Mars and the solar system.  The Phoenix lander, costing $420 million dollars, will not touch down in the same fashion as the last NASA voyage on Mars did, but instead will land more like an Apollo mission on the moon.  Previously a large ‘bubble-wrap’ bouncing landing brought a spacecraft to the Mars surface.  This time however thrusters will fire and set this mission down on an icy section of Mars that has great potential to discover more about water (ice) that was spotted in 2002.  If one were to place the location of the landing on a map of the earth (as it relates to Mars) the landing would occur in the northwest section of Canada.

The landing will be dramatic, though no one obviously will see the actual event.  The first picture from the craft is expected two hours after the landing.

Barry Goldstein, Phoenix project manager from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said that for him the most hair-raising part of the journey will begin about 14 minutes before touchdown, when the spacecraft reaches the beginnings of the thin Mars atmosphere, jettisons the cruise stage that has nurtured it since leaving Earth and experiences three minutes of radio silence as it turns its heat shield toward Mars.

Then, with seven minutes remaining, Phoenix is to plunge into the atmosphere at 12,750 miles an hour, where friction will slow it, heating the shield to 2,600 degrees Fahrenheit. At 8 miles in altitude and 1,000 miles an hour, the spacecraft will deploy its parachute for the next three minutes of descent, when it is to jettison the heat shield, extend its three landing legs and begin using its radar to gather readings on its speed and distance from the surface.

At six-tenths of a mile above the surface and 125 miles an hour, Phoenix is to separate from its parachute and the back shell that holds it and begin the sequential firing of 12 rocket thrusters that slow it to landing at 5 1/2 miles an hour 40 seconds later.

The Phoenix mission to mars that started last August is now about to produce great rewards for scientists, with a landing scheduled for Sunday night at about 7:46 P.M. E.T.  The events surrounding the landing will be presented on the Discovery Channel.

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