Navigation Links
Phoenix mission to Mars will search for climate clues
Date:5/22/2008

On May 25, 2008, approaching 5 p.m. PDT, NASA scientists will be wondering: Just how green is their valley?

That's because at that time the Phoenix Mars Mission space vehicle will be touching down on its three legs to make a soft landing onto the northern Mars terrain called Green Valley.

Of course, no valley is actually green on the Red Planet. The place got its name after analysis of images from Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's HiRISE instrument. HiRISE can image rocks on Mars as small as roughly a yard and a half across. Green is the color that that landing site selection team used to represent the fewest number of rocks in an area, corresponding to a desirable place to land. Thus, "green valley," a relatively rock-less region, is a "sweet spot" where the Phoenix spacecraft will land.

Also playing a key role in the Phoenix Mars mission is Raymond E. Arvidson, Ph.D., the James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor and chair of the earth and planetary sciences department in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis.

Arvidson has extensive experience in planetary landing operations. He participated in the two Viking Lander missions in 1976 and has spent the past four years, first helping select the landing site for the 2004 Mars Exploration Rover (MER) mission, then guiding the activities of the rovers Spirit and Opportunity as the mission's deputy principal investigator.

Accordingly, Arvidson is NASA's Phoenix landing site working group chair. He also is the co-investigator for the Phoenix robotic arm, a crucial instrument that will collect soil and ice samples; the lead for archiving mission data, and a key science lead for the first week of surface operations.

Phoenix will touch down in Green Valley with the aid of a parachute, retro rockets and three strong legs with shock absorbing footpads to slow it down.

That's sol (a Martian day) zero.

"We'll know within two hours of landing if Phoenix landed nominally," said Arvidson. "It will land, deploy its solar panels, take a picture and then go to bed."

The next day, Sol 1, begins a crucial period of operations for the mission. Arvidson said, "We'll be checking out the instruments and begin robotic arm operations within about a week, if everything goes well, and collect soil and ice samples over the summer for analyses with the on-board instruments."

Phoenix will dig to an ice-rich layer expected to lie within arm's reach of the surface. It will analyze the water and soil for evidence about climate cycles and investigate whether the environment there has been favorable for microbial life. It also carries a weather station to monitor changes in the atmosphere. The primary mission is brief, just 90 days.

Martian weather channel

That first tense, exciting, crucial day, four Washington University students will work with Arvidson at the University of Arizona. Two of them, sophomore Kirsten Siebach, and junior Rebecca Greenberger, are Fossett Fellows, a scholarship program established at WUSTL by the late adventurer J. Steven Fossett. A third, Tabatha Heet, will have just graduated with a bachelor's degree nine days earlier, and WUSTL doctoral candidate Selby Cull will be present as well. Thomas C. Stein, a WUSTL computer systems manager, will work with the Phoenix geology theme group and also archive data for NASA's Planetary Data System.

The four students are Phoenix Mission documentarians, responsible for recording all that is done on the mission and for informally naming geological sites in the area.

Heet played a key role in counting rocks in HiRISE images to enable a safe landing for Phoenix. She began the rock measurement and counting project in October of 2006.

Both Heet and Arvidson are excited to have the mission so close at hand after years of planning.

"It's still very exciting," the veteran Arvidson said. "This is a new place on an intriguing planet, and we can't wait to see what we'll find."


'/>"/>

Contact: Gerry Everding
gerry_everding@wustl.edu
314-935-6375
Washington University in St. Louis
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Phoenix Technologies and Atmel Collaborate to Create Next-Generation Security Solutions for PCs
2. Atmel and Phoenix Technologies Collaborate to Create Next-generation Security Solutions for PCs
3. Groundbreaking Canada-US study proves link between emissions and mercury pollution in fish
4. CO2 emissions could violate EPA ocean-quality standards within decades
5. Groundbreaking Canada-US study proves link between emissions and mercury pollution in fish
6. RIT to study air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions in the Great Lakes region
7. Decline in uptake of carbon emissions confirmed
8. Change-1 -- new mission to Moon lifts off
9. US faces burning emissions issue
10. Biodiesel could reduce greenhouse gas emissions
11. e-Smart Technologies, Inc. Responds to Information Subpoenas From Securities & Exchange Commission
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:2/10/2017)... -- Research and Markets has announced the ... Scientific and Commercial Aspects" to their offering. ... Biomarkers play ... therapy for selection of treatment as well for monitoring the ... disease in modern medicine. Biochip/microarray technologies and next generation sequencing ...
(Date:2/8/2017)...  Aware, Inc. (NASDAQ: AWRE ), a leading ... for its quarter and year ended December 31, 2016. ... $3.9 million compared to $6.9 million in the same quarter ... was $0.6 million compared to $2.6 million in the fourth ... 2016 was $0.5 million, or $0.02 per diluted share, which ...
(Date:2/8/2017)... , Feb. 7, 2017 Report Highlights ... billion by 2021 from $8.3 billion in 2016 at ... 2016 to 2021. Report Includes - An overview ... global market trends, with data from 2015 and 2016, ... 2021. - Segmentation of the market on the basis ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:2/23/2017)... FRANCISCO , Feb. 23, 2017   ViaCyte, ... Type 1, a not-for-profit advocacy and education group for ... grant from Beyond Type 1 to support ViaCyte,s efforts ... other insulin-requiring diabetes.  For more than ... cell replacement therapies with a focus on the treatment ...
(Date:2/22/2017)... Feb. 22, 2017  PrimeVax Immuno-Oncology, Inc. announced today ... at the Annual Biocom Global Life Science Partnering Conference.  ... 11:15 AM, at the Torrey Pines Lodge, in San ... organizers at Biocom who have chosen our company, amongst ... biotechnology companies, investors, and clinical researchers," said Mr. Chen. ...
(Date:2/22/2017)... ... ... LabRoots , the leading provider of educational and interactive virtual events ... the launch of a new scholarship for young scientists seeking a degree in any ... open to all high school seniors, 17 years or older; as well as those ...
(Date:2/22/2017)... ... February 22, 2017 , ... Pharma and ... Perkins as European director. Operating from Pennside’s Zurich headquarters, Pennside Partners, GmbH, Mr. ... joins Pennside after more than a decade with leading market research firm, GfK. ...
Breaking Biology Technology: