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)
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)
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.

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