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 Arvidso
|Contact: Gerry Everding|
Washington University in St. Louis