andygates: (Default)
This really has made my day:

@MarsPhoenix -- 1st day of Martian spring (north hemi) is Oct 26. The team will wait til January (& longer sunlight hours) before attempting contact.

It's probable that Phoenix is a dead stick.  It outlived its planned end-of-mission date in August 2008, giving a last 'peep' on November 2nd.  The dim light of the Martian polar winter was too weak to charge its batteries, so after reboots and brownouts, Phoenix shut down.

It's been frozen in drifts of CO2 ice since then.  In fact, Phoenix's lidar spotted falling snow in high cloud (this is water ice; the CO2 comes when it gets colder!) before it went down.  It is likely that the winter has killed the old bird (Phoenix was not designed to survive the winter, and extreme cold is ever so bad for electronics), but it has a 'Lazarus mode' : if there's power, it'll try to boot and say hello.  If the boot fails or the communications fail, it shuts down and tops up its batteries for a while before having another go; if Phoenix is capable of life, then eventually it should start up fully.

That would be awesome on a scale like unto the Incredible Rovers That Just Will Not Die. 

And I just want to hear it tweet again.  :)
andygates: (Default)
Mars Phoenix, the Twittering Robot Science Lab That Could, which brought us an infectious sense of the excitement of space science with its tweet "woot! it's water ice!", is closing down its heaters and going, slowly, into the long dark Martian winter.  It is not expected to survive.  

The mission was a triumph.  It'll keep on doing science while it's still alive.

One of the penultimate posts from Phoenix: "Take care of that beautiful blue marble out there in space, our home planet. I’ll be keeping an eye from here. Space exploration FTW!"  Brings a genuine tear to my eye.  Take care under all that carbon dioxide snow, you hear.

Phoenix has a Lazarus Mode which may bring it back to life a few times before it finally closes down, and then possibly in Martian spring.  The extreme cold that Phoenix has to withstand is expected to nix the electronics, though. 

I want to live long enough to visit it and graffiti "still alive" on its solar panels.

The JPL boffins describe this encroaching darkness as "the bonus round at the end of [Phoenix's] extended mission."  January will mark the five year anniversary of Spirit and Opportunity, the Mars Rovers.  They were originally designed to run for 90 days.  Some bonus rounds just keep on giving.
andygates: (Default)
I'm just reading Edison's Conquest of Mars, a trashy and lurid faux-sequel to H G Wells's War of the Worlds written - in Edison's lifetime - as a sort of puff-piece escapade (rather like the Wild Bill Hickock stuff).  Some fantastic clichés are present in their ur-forms: thus far the dashing inventor has discovered the Martian power-source, reverse-engineered their Ships of Space, come up with a disintegrator, danced with Queen Victoria, paid a flying visit to the Moon with Lord Kelvin and the savants of the age, and been modestly brilliant while co-ordinating the gathered and insultingly-stereotyped Races of Mankind in a massive, coordinated effort to build a fleet of electrostatic Ships of Space and go to Mars and spank those bellicose boneless brains once and for all.  Science!  Science properly applied can solve all problems, especially when applied through the lever of Edison's magnificent mind and the fulcrum of American gumption, labour and resources.

Apparently there were quite a lot of these novels, such that they got a genre name: Edisonades.  This Edison-escapade would doubtless have Wells spinning in his grave, lacking any sensitivity whatsoever to the human condition, and looking a lot like Independence Day for the Age of Invention.  Back in the day, they sold like hot cakes. 

andygates: (Default)
The Mars Rovers have a Twitter stream too, now: marsrovers.  Oppy has left the crater!  W00t!
andygates: (Default)
Mars Phoenix continued its goodness by getting a sample of the "white stuff we're pretty sure is water" into its analyser:
An ice-containing sample made it into the TEGA oven. I can now say I'm the first mission to Mars to touch and then *taste* the water. FTW!
I just love how enthusiastic it is :)

The tweets continue to be bittersweet though...
I'm a lander and can't rove. So when mission is done, I'll remain in the same spot. Come winter, I'll be entombed in CO2 Ice.
Brave little toaster.
andygates: (Default)
The Mars Phoenix probe has done some wet chemistry with a soil sample.  The soil's got a pH of 8-9 and 'contains nutrients', say the team, 'you could grow asparagus in it.'

I love the idea that you could plonk down on another freaking planet and throw up an oxygen tent and a heater, plant out your seeds in the dirt and it would just work.
andygates: (Default)
Coolest space news evar.  The shiny chunks of white stuff that Phoenix exposed a few days ago have sublimated away.  That makes them ice, not salt or white rocks.  How exciting is this?  The Phoenix official Twitter said "W00t! Best day ever!"  That's how exciting.
andygates: (Default)


This haunting image was taken by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (details).  Every single one of us, you and me, all our friends, family and foes, they're all down there on that little blue ball. 

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