False-color “postcard” from the Phoenix Lander

I mean no slight for not linking earlier to Susan Kitchens’ own excellent coverage of the Phoenix Lander and, in fact, all things JPL and space-related.

This is via Emily’s post Phoenix: last press briefing of the day after the successful landing at the Planetary Society Blog:

False-color "postcard" from Phoenix

False-color “postcard” from Phoenix
This image, one of the first captured by NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander, shows the vast plains of the northern polar region of Mars. The flat landscape is strewn with tiny pebbles and shows polygonal cracking, a pattern seen widely in Martian high latitudes and also observed in permafrost terrains on Earth. The polygonal cracking is believed to have resulted from seasonal freezing and thawing of surface ice.

Phoenix touched down on the Red Planet at 4:53 p.m. Pacific Time (7:53 Eastern Time), May 25, 2008, in an arctic region called Vastitas Borealis, at 68 degrees north latitude, 234 degrees east longitude.

This is an approximate-color image taken shortly after landing by the spacecraft’s Surface Stereo Imager, inferred from two color filters, a violet, 450-nanometer filter and an infrared, 750-nanometer filter.

Credit: NASA / JPL / U. Arizona

Mars Phoenix Lander at 23:53:52 (UT) 4:53 p.m. (PDT)

Today is the day for the Mars Phoenix Lander to land on Mars. These details are from Phil’s Bad Astronomy Blog.

The Mars Phoenix Lander will be touching down on the surface of Mars on Sunday at 23:53:52 Universal Time (4:53 p.m. Pacific time). Of course, there will be lots of action leading up to that moment.

You can get live info from a few different sources.

For online video and such, your best bet is NASA TV. If you have it, The Science Channel is covering it live on TV. And if you want live blogging action, Emily’s your destination. She has a nice schedule on her blog of the whole thing. She’s also been doing some great blogging on the pre-landing press conferences, so she has all the info you want. And if you’re in the Tucson area, the Lunar and Planetary Institute Lab has a ton of stuff going on for the whole family.

[update:] Today’s APOD is all about Phoenix on Mars with lots of details, including NASA’s animation of the landing sequence.

All these worlds are yours, except Europa…

Ian and I are gearing up for another week on our own. Actually, I’m gearing up, he is blissfully unaware.

Audrey is getting ready to head out tomorrow for NASA Planetary Science Summer School.

WHAT: A one-week intensive team exercise learning the process of developing a robotic mission concept into reality through concurrent engineering.

The trainees participate in a team activity to develop a mission proposal, working with JPL’s Advanced Projects Design Team (“Team X”) and other concurrent engineering teams. Using JPL’s Project Design Center, trainees assume roles including principal investigator, project manager, and mission and system designers. They are mentored and assisted by corresponding JPL proposal organizers and Team X members. The team carries out the equivalent of an early concept study responsive to a selected NASA Science Mission Directorate Announcement of Opportunity, prepares a proposal authorization review presentation, presents it to a review board, and receives feedback.

WHEN: Session 1: July 25-29, 2005 (18 participants)

WHERE: Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA

WHY: To prepare the next generation of engineers and scientists to participate in future missions of solar system exploration.

As I understand it, their concept is putting a lander on Europa. (insert obligatory “Attempt no landings here” comment)

I am really proud of her. The only problem is, I just can not figure out how to make the transition from archaeologist to space scientist. 🙂

[ha ha only half-serious]

Meteorite or “meteorwrong”?

Science in action…

Mars Rover Inspects Intriguing Rock – A Meteorite? [Space.com]
Scientists controlling the Opportunity Mars rover are taking an up-close look at an intriguing pitted rock on Mars, now dubbed “Heat Shield Rock”.

A speculative view about the object is that the Mars robot has come across a meteorite. A detailed investigation of the rock is underway, work that should reveal the true nature of the object.


Initial looks at the rock have stirred speculation the object could be a meteorite. Furthermore, Opportunity’s Mini-Thermal Emission Spectrometer (Mini-TES) is suggestive that the find is made of metal.

In wait-and-see mode is Steve Squyres of Cornell University, principal investigator for the science instruments onboard Opportunity, as well as the Spirit rover busy at work on the other side of Mars.

Squyres said data taken by Opportunity’s Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer — a device that accurately determines the elements that make up rocks and soils — is to arrive over the weekend. So too is information about the rock from use of the rover’s Mössbauer Spectrometer. This equipment can determine the composition and abundance of iron-bearing minerals.

Too early to tell if it’s a meteorite, said Laurie Leshin, Director of the Center for Meteorite Studies at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona.

“Not sure if it is or not, but it does sorta look like one,” Leshin told SPACE.com. “Looks a lot like an iron [meteorite] to me.”

Leshin said, however, that her Meteorite Center identifies loads of “meteorwrongs” per year. “Looks can be deceiving.”

Given the robot’s suite of science instruments, identifying the makeup and origin of the rock should be forthcoming.