February 13, 2013
Step into the Twilight Zone: Can Earthlings Adjust to a Longer Day on Mars?
"Mutinous" is not a word frequently used to describe teams of NASA scientists and engineers.
But that's precisely the term employed by Harvard University sleep scientist Charles Czeisler to explain what happened when the group operating the Pathfinder mission's rover in 1997 was required to live indefinitely on Mars time.
"They didn't really have a plan for dealing with the Martian day before they went up, and the rover lasted a lot longer than it was supposed to, so they actually had a mutiny and wanted to shut the thing off because they were so exhausted," he says, drily adding the obvious: "NASA wasn't too happy with that notion."
October 25, 2012
ATK Selected to Develop MegaFlex™ Solar Array Structure
MegaFlex™ solar array was recently selected by NASA's Space Technology Program under a Game Changing Technology competition for development of the promising lightweight and compact solar array structure. ATK received a $6.4 million contract for the MegaFlex™ development.
MegaFlex™, under development by ATK's Space Components Division in Goleta, California, is designed specifically to meet the anticipated power demands of 350kW and higher, with very low mass and small stowed volume for future space exploration missions using solar electric propulsion.
"We are honored to win this program to develop the future space exploration power platform for NASA," said David Shanahan, vice president and general manager of ATK Aerospace Group's Space Components Division. "This win is a result of the outstanding innovation and capabilities of our Goleta team."
October 10, 2012
Adjusting to Sol Takes Toll on Mars Rovers’ Teams
Space Safety Magazine
It accounts for no more than 39 minutes and 35 seconds but the difference between the terrestrial “day” and the Martian “sol” can really mess up human circadian rhythms. It is like skipping one time zone every day, leading to a permanent need to adjust to a feeling of mild jet lag. As everyone who ever experienced jet lag knows, deviating from the internal clock usually leads to sleepiness and impairs the ability to concentrate and think clearly.
As NASA’s Curiosity rover continues its journey over the Red Planet’s surface, this adjustment to space jet lag is exactly what the operations team in NASA’s JPL are going through. The mission requires them to steer the rover in the real Martian time making it impossible to follow a 24 hour schedule. The results of a study conducted on the engineers operating the previous Martian lander Phoenix could help with this challenge.
April 28, 2011
A Book Store. That’s Right. Book, Singular.
The New York Times
At first glance, it looks like a charming independent bookstore, a West Village gem with a window display featuring artful stacks of gleaming hardcovers.
But, wait a minute. Is that one book? Like, many, many copies of the same book?
Selection isn’t the strong suit of Ed’s Martian Book, on Hudson Street, where you can’t buy “Water for Elephants” or anything by Mary Higgins Clark, but 3,000 or so copies of “Martian Summer: Robot Arms, Cowboy Spacemen, and My 90 Days With the Phoenix Mars Mission” (Pegasus, 2011), by a 32-year-old Brooklyn author named Andrew Kessler, are available for $27.95 each.
The book is Mr. Kessler’s account of NASA’s 2008 Phoenix Mars Lander mission, reported during 90 days inside mission control, in Tucson, alongside 130 leading scientists and engineers. Publishers Weekly calls the book a “slightly offbeat firsthand account of scientific determination and stubborn intellect” that “delivers a fascinating journey of discovery peppered with humor.”
June 17, 2010
NASA Bestows Honors on UA Phoenix Mars Mission Members
Four members of the University of Arizona's Phoenix Mars Mission team on Tuesday were presented with NASA's most distinguished awards for their contributions to the mission.
The awards, announced during a ceremony at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, went to:
May 28, 2010
The spacecraft that discovered snow on Mars finally bites the dust
The Phoenix is dead and this time it won’t rise again.
On May 24, NASA released photos of the Mars Phoenix lander that finally ended even the faintest hope that the York-designed weather instruments on board the spacecraft would come to life again. The photos show that the lander’s solar panels appear to have collapsed due to the weight of a thick layer of frost, robbing it of power it needs to communicate – if its physical components were not already cracked and broken by the extreme cold.
May 25, 2010
Phoenix Mars Lander is Silent, New Image Shows Damage
NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander has ended operations after repeated attempts to contact the spacecraft were unsuccessful. A new image transmitted by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows signs of severe ice damage to the lander's solar panels. "The Phoenix spacecraft succeeded in its investigations and exceeded its planned lifetime," said Fuk Li, manager of the Mars Exploration Program at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "Although its work is finished, analysis of information from Phoenix's science activities will continue for some time to come." Earth-based research continues on discoveries Phoenix made during summer conditions at the far-northern site where it landed May 25, 2008. The solar-powered lander completed its three-month mission and kept working until sunlight waned two months later.
May 20, 2010
Did Winter Kill the Mars Lander? NASA listens One Last Time for a Sign of Life
The Daily Galaxy
Experts hold out slim hopes that hard-working NASA robot didn't freeze to death during Martian winter, but NASA is making one final effort to detect signs of life in the dormant Phoenix Mars Lander. This week marks NASA's fourth attempt to listen for signals showing that the Mars Lander did not perish during the frigid -- and long -- Martian winter. The Mars Odyssey made similar attempts in January, February and April of this year. NASA scientists received the last transmission from the Lander on Nov. 2, 2008.
NASA's Mars Odyssey yesterday began sending out radio signals for a last time in the hopes that the robotic Lander will pick them up and respond. Through Friday, the orbiter will make 61 flights this week high over the Mars Lander's site on the Martian surface.
"To be thorough, we decided to conduct this final session around the time of the summer solstice, during the best thermal and power conditions for Phoenix," said Chad Edwards, chief telecommunications engineer for NASA's Mars Exploration Program, in a statement.
April 17, 2010
Long-Silent Mars Lander Appears to Be Officially Lost
It looks like it really is the end for NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander, which spent five months digging in the Martian arctic before succumbing to the icy winter conditions that set in at the end of its mission.
The third and final attempt to listen for any signs of survival from the lander, conducted last week, didn't turn up a peep.
Phoenix landed on Mars on May 25, 2008, and operated successfully in the Martian arctic for about two months longer than its planned three-month mission, which confirmed the presence of water ice under the Martian surface. But once the sun and temperatures dropped and winter set in, the spacecraft didn't have enough power to keep going. The lander went silent in November 2008.
January 21, 2010
No sign of Phoenix lander during three days of listening
NASA says they heard no signals from the Phoenix lander this week during 30 communications passes over the probe's icy landing site, an expected outcome because the craft was never designed to survive the dark and cold Martian winter. The Odyssey orbiter circling Mars listened for potential radio signals from Phoenix 30 times over three days this week. NASA announced late Thursday that Odyssey did not detect any communications from Phoenix.
"After all their tries so far, they haven't recovered it yet," said Peter Smith, the Phoenix mission's principal investigator at the University of Arizona.
Officials cautioned the odds of hearing anything from Phoenix were very slim because the lander was not designed to weather the bone-chilling temperatures and months of darkness during winter on Mars' northern polar plains.
December 16, 2009
Mars Phoenix Lander Might Rise from the Dead
NASA's Phoenix Mars lander lived up to its name – rising from the ashes of an earlier failed Mars landing attempt to go on to a successful mission. But now the Mars-bound probe has a chance to rise from the dead itself.
Touching down in the martian northern plains on May 25, 2008, Phoenix exceeded its original three-month mission, lasting five months and, quite literally, dug up a number of scientific findings including – perhaps – liquid water.
Eventually Phoenix succumbed to the bitterly cold winter on Mars.
But now scientists are warming up to the prospect of re-establishing contact with Phoenix.
December 10, 2009
There’s hope that Lockheed Martin’s Mars lander Phoenix might spring back to life
Denver Business Journal
The slight warming of temperatures Wednesday may have gotten some Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co. workers thinking about the Phoenix lander on Mars that they built.
The NASA probe created at the company’s Littleton headquarters has been frozen in wintry Martian conditions that make this week’s sub-zero lows around Denver seem balmy.
NASA stopped listening for signals from the solar-powered Phoenix a year ago amid round-the-clock darkness in the Martian arctic and cold that’s typically minus 195 degrees. Phoenix (website
) was covered with frozen carbon dioxide — “dry ice” — that falls as snow and occurs as frost in the Martian winter.
Spring started on the red planet Oct. 26, and there’s hope Phoenix will reawaken when longer, sunnier days return by mid-January. (Seasons on Mars last twice as long as they do on Earth.)
November 17, 2009
NASA to Test Drills for Cutting Ice on Mars
Scientists with NASA's IceBite project are heading this week for University Valley, a hanging valley perched more than 1600 feet (more than 1 mile) above sea level in Antarctica's McMurdo Dry Valleys. Their objective: to test a set of ice-penetrating drills and select one for use on a future mission to the Martian polar north, the same region of the planet that NASA's Phoenix lander investigated in 2008.
The northern polar region on Mars is of particular interest to scientists because it once may have provided a habitable environment for life. Due to variations over time in Mars' orbit and the angle at which it tilts toward the sun, Mars' north pole received much more sunlight several million years ago than it does today — enough sunlight to produce liquid water, enough liquid water to support life. Indeed NASA's Phoenix lander found evidence in Martian arctic soil that liquid water had been present there in the past.
November 04, 2009
Phoenix in Winter
The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured winter images of NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander surrounded by dry-ice frost on Mars.
As the sun began to reappear on the horizon following the deepest, darkest days of north polar winter on Mars, the HiRISE camera imaged the Phoenix landing site on July 30, 2009, (left image) and in Aug. 22, 2009 (right).
The sun was only 1 degree above the horizon when the July image was taken at approximately 2 p.m. local Martian time. In the August image the sun was six degrees above the horizon when the image was taken at about 1:44 p.m., Martian time.
By matching up the images with the known location of the Lander, the HiRISE team identified the hardware, disguised by frost, despite the fact that the views were hindered by poor lighting and atmospheric haze, which often obscures the Martian surface at this location and season.
September 17, 2009
Telltale Tells Story Of Winds At Mars Phoenix Landing Site
Wind speeds and directions were measured for the first time in the Mars polar region using the Phoenix lander's Telltale instrument. Astronomers recorded Easterly winds of approximately 15-20 kilometers per hour during the Martian mid-summer. When autumn approached, the winds increased and switched round to come predominantly from the West.
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