Friday, May 09, 2008

Phoenix: Two Weeks Out

The Phoenix Mars spacecraft is just a little over two weeks from landing on Mars (16 days, 11 hours, 20 minutes according the landing countdown clock here). I was reminded of this the other day when I read Phoenix principal investigator Peter Smith's introduction to the "Visions of Mars" mini-DVD that is mounted on the spacecraft. That special DVD was provided by the Planetary Society and is a sort of time capsule, a message to (human?) Martians who may recover and decode it some time in the future. It contains messages, stories, and various other materials, plus a list of thousands of names, including all the members of the Planetary Society (so I'm in there). There's a lot of cool material on the DVD, and you can read and hear some of it on the Planetary Society's web site. I'm listening to Carl Sagan's audio message right now.

As I wrote last summer, if you would like to experience the entry, descent, and landing (EDL) for Phoenix yourself, you can do so in Orbiter with the nice Phoenix add-on by Brian Jones (it's at, not Orbit Hangar). The picture above shows the spacecraft about to touch down, having already detached from the parachutes and ejected its landing shroud. Is anyone going to try to follow the EDL in real time on May 25?

P.S. If you want to get up to speed quickly on the Phoenix mission, download the JPL press kit for the Phoenix landing, a 3 MB PDF here.

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