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.

A Survival Imperative for Space Colonization

“To ensure our long-term survival, we need to get a colony up and running on Mars within 46 years.”

Ouch! We may resemble that remark… [h/t Garret]

A Survival Imperative for Space Colonization [NY Times Science]
“Maybe the reason civilizations don’t get around to colonizing other planets is that there’s a narrow window when they have the tools, population and will to do so, and the window usually closes on them.”

Mars Surface Water?

The report about the possibility of recent surface water on Mars is being noted all over the place. It is interesting how different people can see different things.

NASA Images Suggest Water Still Flows in Brief Spurts on Mars Mars Global Surveyor [NASA/JPL]
In June 2000, we reported the discovery, using the Mars Global Surveyor’s Mars Orbiter Camera, of very youthful-looking gullies found on slopes at middle and high latitudes on Mars. Since that time, tens of thousands of gullies have been imaged by all of the Mars orbiting spacecraft: Mars Global Surveyor, Mars Odyssey, Mars Express and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

During the years since the original June 2000 report, the Mars Global Surveyor’s camera was used to test the hypothesis that the gullies may be so young that some of them could still be active today. The test was very simple: re-image gullies previously seen by the camera and see if anything has changed. (more)

I lean more towards gravity-induced granular flow as opposed to water flow. Some brief observations; [where is the upslope generator or flow instigator?] there appears to be very few gullies with some flow — why not the many similar gullies that are nearby? Something obviously happened in these gullies, but if it was flowing water, where did it go once it reached base level of the slope? The ‘digitate termination’ more resembles the dry particulate dissipation patterns like you see on unvegetated pediment slopes rather than water-lain low turbulence dispersion. The color difference is due to newly exposed sediments that are unweathered.

At least that is how it seems to me.

Don’t get me wrong, I want water to be found. I just have not seen the convincing [IMO] evidence yet.

[edit: I read that twice before I published this post, I was sure I had included the point in brackets above. Sorry about that. –Hal]

[comment 12/8/2006: My wife (who knows about such things) tells me it’s space gophers. Wow, I never even suspected. She also (gently) mentioned something about inferring too much either way about surfcial processes from satellite data. Humph. Like that has stopped me before. That so rains on my parade. Grumble.]

Mars Spirit Rover’s Wheel is Broken

Nuts. I’ll let others closer to the effort comment.

Mars rover’s broken wheel is beyond repair [New Scientist]
Mission managers have given up hope of fixing a broken wheel on NASA’s Spirit rover and will simply have to drag the wheel on future drives. The glitch means NASA must avoid terrain with loose soil as it maps out a route to a safe winter haven for the rover.(…)

[E]ngineers have lost hope that the wheel can ever recover again. Recent tests at a range of voltage levels failed to produce any movement in the wheel. “It’s just not responding,” says team member Ray Arvidson of Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, US. [more]

But hey, Spirit has lasted how long past its project date? 🙂