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Phoenix Mars Lander

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The Exploration of Mars -

Phoenix Mars Lander


The original "Exploration of Mars" topic became excessively long. As a result the topic has been split into individual, mission based, topics. The "Exploration of Mars" topic is now for news and discoveries not specific to any one mission.

Links to the other topics can be found below:Waspie_Dwarf

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Pieces of NASA's Next Mars Mission are Coming Together


April 26, 2006

NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander, the next mission to the surface of Mars, is beginning a new phase in preparation for a launch in August 2007.

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Artist's concept of Phoenix spacecraft.
+ Browse image

Related Links:
Mission overview



As part of this "assembly, test and launch operations" phase, Phoenix team members are beginning to add complex subsystems such as the flight computer, power systems and science instruments to the main structure of the spacecraft. The work combines efforts of Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver; the University of Arizona, Tucson; and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

"All the subsystems and instruments from a wide range of suppliers are tested separately, but now we are beginning the vital stage of assembling them together and testing how they will function with each other," said JPL's Barry Goldstein, project manager for Phoenix.

Phoenix will land near the red planet's north polar ice cap to analyze scooped-up samples of icy soil.

"We know there is plenty of water frozen into the surface layer of Mars at high latitudes. We've designed Phoenix to tell us more about this region as a possible habitat for life," said the University of Arizona's Peter Smith, principal investigator for the mission.

Phoenix is the first mission of NASA's Mars Scout Program of competitively proposed, relatively low-cost missions to Mars. The program is currently soliciting proposals for a 2011 Scout mission.

The Phoenix proposal, selected in 2003, saves expense by using a lander structure, subsystem components and protective aeroshell originally built for a 2001 lander mission that was canceled while in development. The budget for the Phoenix mission, including launch, is $386 million.

The spacecraft will land using descent thrusters just prior to touchdown, rather than airbags like those used by the current Mars Exploration Rovers. As Phoenix parachutes through Mars' lower atmosphere in May 2008, a descent camera will take images for providing geological context about the landing site.

The robotic arm being built for Phoenix will be about 2 meters (7 feet) long, jointed at the elbow and wrist, and equipped with a camera and scoop. It will dig as deep as about 50 centimeters (20 inches) and deliver samples to instruments on the spacecraft deck that will analyze physical and chemical properties of the ices and other materials. A stereo color camera will examine the landing site's terrain and provide positioning information for the arm. The Canadian Space Agency is providing a suite of weather instruments for Phoenix.

"The propulsion system and the wiring harness have been added to the vehicle," said Ed Sedivy, Phoenix program manager for Lockheed Martin. "We will be loading flight software onto the flight computer in the next few days. The flight software is much more mature than typical for a planetary program at this stage. As soon as the flight computer is mated up, we can apply external power to the vehicle."

Navigation components, such as star trackers, and communication subsystems will become part of the spacecraft in coming weeks, followed by science instruments in the summer.

Phoenix will be shipped to NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Florida, in May 2007, for final preparations leading up to launch. Before that, testing in Colorado will subject the spacecraft to expected operational environments. This includes thermal and vacuum tests simulating the 10-month trip to Mars and conditions on Mars' surface. Meanwhile, the mission is preparing a test facility in Tucson for practicing and testing procedures for operating the spacecraft on Mars.

JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, manages Phoenix for NASA's Science Mission Directorate.

For information about NASA and agency programs on the Web, visit http://www.nasa.gov . For information about the Phoenix Mission to Mars on the Web, visithttp://phoenix.lpl.arizona.edu.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Media contact:
Natalie Godwin (818) 354-0850
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Dwayne Brown/Erica Hupp (202) 358-1726/1237
NASA Headquarters, Washington

2006-066


Source: NASA/JPL - News Releases Edited by Waspie_Dwarf

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Canada Contributes a Weather Station to the Phoenix Mission to Mars


The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) press release is reproduced below:

Longueuil, Quebec, April 12, 2007 – The Honourable Maxime Bernier, Minister of Industry and Minister responsible for the Canadian Space Agency, announced today that the Agency has delivered to NASA Canada's contribution to the Phoenix mission to Mars. Canada is contributing a weather station called MET that will be integrated with the Phoenix Mars lander, which is set to launch on August 3, 2007. These meteorological instruments were designed by Canadian scientists and industry with $37 million in funding from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).

"Our contribution to the Phoenix mission will inspire young Canadians to take their place as part of the next space generation," said Minister Bernier.

"Today's announcement fully supports the commitments made in Budget 2007, especially the strengthening of our economy through a knowledge advantage," he added. "This initiative is a good example of the creation of a knowledge advantage, as it will help ensure that Canada is well positioned to succeed in the modern global economy by combining people, skills, new ideas and advanced technologies."

Minister Bernier also introduced Agency employees to Mr. Laurier J. Boisvert, the new president of the CSA.

About the Canadian Space Agency

Established in 1989, the CSA coordinates all civil space-related policies and programs on behalf of the Government of Canada. The CSA directs its resources and activities through four key thrusts: earth observation, space science and exploration, satellite communications, and space awareness and learning. By leveraging international cooperation, the CSA generates world-class scientific research and industrial development for the benefit of humanity.

For more information, please visit the Agency's website:
www.space.gc.ca/asc/eng/exploration/phoenix.asp

Biographical notes on Mr. Laurier J. Boisvert are available at
www.space.gc.ca/asc/eng/about/president.asp.


Source: CSA Press Release

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Waspie_Dwarf
NASA's Next Mars Spacecraft Crosses the Mississippi


A U.S. Air Force C-17 cargo aircraft carried NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander spacecraft Monday, May 7, from Colorado to Florida, where Phoenix will start a much longer trip in August.

After launch, Phoenix will land on a Martian arctic plain next spring. It will use a robotic digging arm and other instruments to determine whether the soil environment just beneath the surface could have been a favorable habitat for microbial life. Studies from orbit suggest that within arm's reach of the surface, the soil holds frozen water.

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Image above: Artist's concept of Phoenix
spacecraft.
Image credit: NASA/JPL
+ Browse version of image


"This is a critical milestone for our mission," said Peter Smith of the University of Arizona, Tucson, principal investigator for Phoenix. "Our expert engineering team has completed assembly and testing of the spacecraft. The testing shows our instruments are capable of meeting the high-level requirements for the mission."

Workers have been assembling and testing the spacecraft for more than a year in Denver. "We're excited to be going back to Mars," said Ed Sedivy, Phoenix program manager at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co., Denver. "Assembly, integration and testing of the spacecraft have gone very well. We delivered Phoenix stowed inside its back shell and it will stay in that configuration until it lands softly on Mars."

A Delta II launch vehicle will start Phoenix on its longer trip from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. The earliest possible launch time will be Aug. 3, at 5:35 a.m. EDT. Opportunities for energy-efficient launches to Mars come about every two years. Orbital geometries of Mars and Earth make this year particularly favorable for sending a lander to far-northern Mars to arrive when sunshine is at a maximum there.

"The arctic plains are the right place for the next step in Mars exploration, and this is the right time to go there," said Leslie Tamppari, Phoenix project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "We expect to touch Martian ice for the first time, a real leap in NASA's follow-the-water strategy. The lander needs solar energy, and we will arrive for a three-month prime mission right at the end of northern Mars' spring."

Phoenix will be prepared for launch in a payload processing facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Florida. The first checkout activity will be a spin-balance test May 10 and 11. This will be followed on May 15 by installation of the heat shield and then a separation test. The next major milestones, during the third week of May, will be a landing radar integration test and launch system verification test. The last week of May will include an entry, descent and landing system verification test, followed by a guidance navigation and control test.

The rocket that will launch Phoenix is a Delta II 7925, manufactured by United Launch Alliance, Denver. The first stage is scheduled to be hoisted into the launcher of Pad 17-A at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station the third week of June. Nine strap-on solid rocket boosters will then be raised and attached. The second stage, which burns hypergolic propellants, will be hoisted atop the first stage the first week of July. The fairing, which surrounds the spacecraft, will then be hoisted into the clean room of the mobile service tower.

Next, engineers will perform several tests of the Delta II. In mid-July, as a leak check, the first stage will be loaded with liquid oxygen during a simulated countdown. The next day, a simulated flight test will be performed, simulating the vehicle’s post-liftoff flight events without fuel aboard. The electrical and mechanical systems of the entire Delta II will be exercised during this test. Once the Phoenix payload is placed atop the launch vehicle in the third week of July, a major test will be conducted: an integrated test of the Delta II and Phoenix working together. This will be a combined minus count and plus count, simulating all events as they will take place on launch day, but without propellants aboard the vehicle. Finally, one week before launch, the Delta II payload fairing will be installed around the Phoenix lander.

The NASA Launch Services Program at the Kennedy Space Center and the United Launch Alliance are responsible for the launch of the Delta II.

Phoenix is the first mission of NASA's Mars Scout Program of competitively proposed, relatively low-cost missions to Mars. Selected in 2003, Phoenix saves expense by using a lander structure and some other components originally built for a 2001 mission that was canceled while in development. Smith of the University of Arizona leads the Phoenix mission, with project management at JPL and development partnership at Lockheed Martin. International contributions are provided by the Canadian Space Agency, the University of Neuchatel (Switzerland), the University of Copenhagen (Denmark), the Max Planck Institute (Germany) and the Finnish Meteorological institute. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. Additional information about Phoenix is available online at http://phoenix.lpl.arizona.edu.


Media contacts:
Guy Webster 818-354-6278
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

George Diller 321-867-2468
NASA Kennedy Space Center

Sara Hammond 520-626-1974
University of Arizona, Tucson

Gary Napier 303-971-4012
Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver

2007-054


Source: NASA - Mars - News Edited by Waspie_Dwarf

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The Lockheed Martin press release is reproduced below:

LOCKHEED MARTIN DELIVERS PHOENIX MARS LANDER SPACECRAFT TO NASA

Next Mission to Mars Working Toward August Launch

DENVER, May 8, 2007 -- Phoenix Mars Lander on C-17A NASA spacecraft touched down on the coast of Florida after a brief 3-1/2 hour trip from the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, but the spacecraft’s next and final trip will be a 9-1/2 month journey to Mars.

The spacecraft, the Phoenix Mars Lander, was delivered by its builder Lockheed Martin [NYSE: LMT] aboard an Air Force C-17 to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Fla. May 7. The vehicle will undergo three more months of testing and integration in preparation for its launch on a Delta II launch vehicle in early August.

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Phoenix is NASA’s next mission to Mars and is the first mission of NASA's Mars Scout Program. Scheduled to arrive at Mars in May 2008, the spacecraft will land on the icy northern latitudes of Mars. During its 90-day primary mission, Phoenix will dig trenches with its robotic arm into the frozen layers of water below the surface. The spacecraft will use various on-board instruments to analyze the contents of the ice and soil – checking for the presence of organic compounds and other conditions favorable for life.

Phoenix Mars Lander on C-17“We’ve worked closely with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the University of Arizona to design and build an amazing spacecraft,” said Jim Crocker, vice president of Sensing and Exploration Systems at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company in Denver. “The Phoenix mission is thrilling as it will be the first spacecraft to land in the polar regions of Mars and will also be the first to touch water.”

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The Phoenix spacecraft was previously known at the 2001 Mars Surveyor lander, before the mission was canceled in 2000 and the spacecraft was mothballed. In early 2006, the spacecraft started the assembly, test and launch operations (ATLO) period of the now Phoenix mission.

“It’s taken a great deal of dedication and hard work to bring us to this moment,” said Ed Sedivy, Phoenix program manager at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company. “I’m proud that we have been able to get a well-tested Phoenix to the launch site ahead of schedule and maintain focus on ensuring mission success for our customer.”

The University of Arizona, Tucson, leads the Phoenix mission. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, manages the Phoenix Mars Lander for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C.

Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, a major operating unit of Lockheed Martin Corporation, designs, develops, tests, manufactures and operates a full spectrum of advanced-technology systems for national security, civil and commercial customers. Chief products include human space flight systems; a full range of remote sensing, navigation, meteorological and communications satellites and instruments; space observatories and interplanetary spacecraft; laser radar; fleet ballistic missiles; and missile defense systems.

Headquartered in Bethesda, Md., Lockheed Martin employs about 140,000 people worldwide and is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products and services. The corporation reported 2006 sales of $39.6 billion.

Additional information about the Phoenix Mars Mission is available online at: http://phoenix.lpl.arizona.edu and http://www.lockheedmartin.com/phoenix

Source: Lockheed Martin Press Release

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NASA's Phoenix to Seek Organics in Mars' Ice to Unravel Red Planet's Mysteries


A spacecraft called Phoenix is destined to land on Mars in 2008, seeking to unravel some of the mysteries of the red planet.

Back on Earth, NASA scientist and Phoenix biological interpretation co-investigator Chris McKay will anxiously await results radioed from the red planet for clues about possible organics on Mars. McKay is a scientist who works at NASA Ames Research Center in the heart of California's Silicon Valley.

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Image above: Phoenix lander artist rendition

"What I hope we find is organic material in the ice," said McKay. "We know from Viking that there's very little, maybe no organic materials in the soils. We're hoping that the ice in the polar regions could preserve organics." NASA sent two Viking landers to Mars in 1976, which landed in non-icy zones, but neither found any organics in those areas.

NASA has scheduled the Phoenix lander spacecraft for launch in August 2007. In May 2008. Phoenix is to land in an ice-rich area in the northern polar region of the planet between 65 and 72-north latitude. The lander's robotic arm will dig into the arctic terrain in search of clues about the history of water on Mars, and also for evidence of organics.

"It's got an arm that will dig to reach the ice which is below ground," McKay explained. "At the site where we're landing, we think we have to go down four to eight centimeters, about 1.6 to three inches, down."

Phoenix will deploy its robotic arm that is capable of digging trenches as deep as 1.6 feet (about one half meter) into the soil, or to the top of an ice boundary, during the course of the 90-day mission.

"We can identify organic material, but we won't be able to determine if it is biological," said McKay. The organic material could be biological, or it could be meteoritic – delivered by meteors from space, according to McKay.

To analyze soil samples collected by the robotic arm, Phoenix will carry eight small ovens in a portable laboratory. Selected martian samples will be heated to release volatiles that can be examined for their chemical composition and other characteristics. The instrument that will look for organics is the Thermal and Evolved Gas Analyzer (TEGA.) It will heat samples that the arm has retrieved to temperatures as high as 1,832 degrees Fahrenheit (1,000 degrees Celsius) and will examine the vapors released from the heated samples, according to McKay. Scientists say the samples could be martian dirt and ice.

The University of Arizona, Tucson, is developing TEGA. The TEGA principal investigator is Professor William V. Boynton.

"What I hope will happen is we'll get to the ice and scrape up a little piece of it, put it in the TEGA oven, and we'll find that it is rich in organics," McKay said. "It would mean that the ice is the place to find organics. Phoenix will be the test." The subsurface layers of ice, originally indicated by sensors on the Mars Odyssey spacecraft and recently imaged by the MARSIS radar on the European Space Agency's Mars Express spacecraft, could be an organic-rich, frozen soup, according to McKay.

Speaking about the significance of finding organics in Mars' polar ice, McKay said scientists would not know from the Phoenix mission how the organics were formed. "We'll know that they're there, and that's pretty exciting," he said.

"Finding organics in the ice would mean that the ice in the polar regions is where we might find evidence of past life – frozen and dead in the dirt and ice," McKay said.

"There is no liquid water on the surface, but there is evidence that there was liquid water on the surface in the past," McKay noted. "There is some possibility that there are active water features on Mars today, but it's not certain," McKay added, referring to recent evidence from NASA's Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft that gullies on the planet may have been produced by recent flows of liquid water.

Asked about how proof of organics uncovered by Phoenix in the red planet's ice might influence the future exploration of Mars, McKay said, "It would mean that the poles are where we're going to go next." McKay noted that the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) rover is designed for operation in zones where ice is not predominant.

"I'm hoping that the next one after the MSL, unofficially named the Astrobiology Field Laboratory – also a rover – would examine a martian region where ice is prevalent," McKay ventured. The Astrobiology Field Laboratory could be designed to cope with icy martian areas, according to McKay.

In addition to looking for organics, scientists will conduct other studies of Mars' polar region using Phoenix, which is not a rover, but instead will remain where it lands. The Phoenix mission is the first mission chosen for NASA's Scout program, designed to produce smaller, lower-cost, competed spacecraft.

The Phoenix mission is derived from two previous missions. Named for the resilient mythological bird, Phoenix will use a lander that was intended for use by 2001's Mars Surveyor program before NASA cancelled the lander portion of that program.

Phoenix also will carry a complex suite of instruments that are improved variations of those that flew on the unsuccessful Mars Polar Lander mission that failed to return a signal to Earth from the red planet's southern polar region in 1999.

Engineers originally designed the martian lander to land in lower, warmer latitudes on Mars, where, presumably, there is softer dirt. Phoenix mission scientists are working to resolve the problem that the spacecraft was designed to work in softer soil. Scientists expect that ice on Mars will be very hard, because the temperature of ice on the red planet is extremely low.

Imaging technology inherited from both the Pathfinder and Mars Exploration Rover missions also will be used in Phoenix's stereo camera, located on its 6.6-foot (2-meter) mast. The camera's two "eyes" will reveal a high-resolution perspective of the landing site's geology, and will also provide range maps that will enable the team to choose ideal digging locations. Multi-spectral capability will enable Phoenix to identify local minerals.

To update our understanding of martian atmospheric processes, Phoenix will probe the martian atmosphere up to 12.4 miles (20 kilometers) in altitude, obtaining data about the formation, duration and movement of clouds, fog and dust plumes. The spacecraft will also carry temperature and pressure sensors.

Principal Investigator Peter H. Smith of the University of Arizona, Tucson, leads the Phoenix mission. Project management is being led by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, located near Denver, Colo., is designing and building the spacecraft and will provide Mars space flight operation for Phoenix. The Canadian Space Agency, the University of Neuchatel (Switzerland), the University of Copenhagen and the Max Planck Institute in Germany provide international contributions for Phoenix. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

For information about the Phoenix mission visit:
http://marsprogram.jpl.nasa.gov/missions/future/phoenix.html

http://phoenix.lpl.arizona.edu

For information about the Viking missions to Mars, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/viking/viking30_fs.html

For more information about McKay, please visit:

http://foreleast.lpl.arizona.edu/mckayChris.php
http://www.nasa.gov/centers/ames/research/2006/mckay.html.


John Bluck
NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.
Phone: 650-604-5026
jbluck@mail.arc.nasa.gov

Guy Webster
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
Phone: 818-354-6278


Source: NASA/ARC - Research

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Phoenix Lander on Mars

linked-image

+ High resolution JPEG

NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander monitors the atmosphere overhead and reaches out to the soil below in this artist's depiction of the spacecraft fully deployed on the surface of Mars.

Phoenix has been assembled and tested for launch in August 2007 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., and for landing in May or June 2008 on an arctic plain of far-northern Mars. The mission responds to evidence returned from NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter in 2002 indicating that most high-latitude areas on Mars have frozen water mixed with soil within arm's reach of the surface.

Phoenix will use a robotic arm to dig down to the expected icy layer. It will analyze scooped-up samples of the soil and ice for factors that will help scientists evaluate whether the subsurface environment at the site ever was, or may still be, a favorable habitat for microbial life. The instruments on Phoenix will also gather information to advance understanding about the history of the water in the icy layer. A weather station on the lander will conduct the first study Martian arctic weather from ground level. The vertical green line in this illustration shows how the weather station on Phoenix will use a laser beam from a lidar instrument to monitor dust and clouds in the atmosphere. The dark "wings" to either side of the lander's main body are solar panels for providing electric power.

The Phoenix mission is led by Principal Investigator Peter H. Smith of the University of Arizona, Tucson, with project management at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and development partnership with Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver. International contributions for Phoenix are provided by the Canadian Space Agency, the University of Neuchatel (Switzerland), the University of Copenhagen (Denmark), the Max Planck Institute (Germany) and the Finnish Meteorological institute. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL/UA/Lockheed Martin

Source: NASA - Mars - Images

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TheLikeness

good stuff

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U-M scientists simulate the effects of blowing Mars dust on NASA's Phoenix lander, due for August launch


The University of Michigan press release is reproduced below:

June 14, 2007

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Click image to view video

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—Gusting winds and the pulsating exhaust plumes from the Phoenix spacecraft's landing engines could complicate NASA's efforts to sample frozen soil from the surface of Mars, according to University of Michigan atmospheric scientist Nilton Renno.

Set to launch Aug. 3 from Florida, the $414 million Phoenix Mars Lander will use descent engines to touch down on the northern plains, where vast stores of ice have been detected just below the surface. A robotic arm will scoop frozen soil and dump it into science instruments that will analyze its chemical content to see if it has the potential to sustain microbial life.

With funding from NASA and the spacecraft's manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, Renno and his students are conducting a series of experiments to determine how much dust the 12 descent engines will kick up and whether martian winds could interfere with efforts to deliver soil to the onboard mini-lab.

Renno, an associate professor in the College of Engineering's Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences, is a member of the Phoenix science team.

"I proposed that my engineering students look into some of the challenges that the Phoenix team will face when the spacecraft arrives at Mars," Renno said. "I wanted the students to contribute to the success of the mission in a meaningful way."

In a laboratory at the U-M Space Research Building, his team built a Phoenix thruster test chamber that looks a bit like a Plexiglas shower stall. But instead of a shower head, the enclosure is fitted with a high-pressure gas nozzle pointing down at a floor covered with 5 inches of reddish sawdust. The pungent wood dust simulates Mars soil, and the nozzle represents one of the 12 Phoenix landing thrusters.

Instead of liquid rocket fuel, the U-M researchers use nitrogen gas at pressures up to 400 pounds per square inch. They fire short bursts into the soil to mimic the pulsating Phoenix landing engines, filling the lab with dust and a loud, staccato blast like machine-gun fire.

Renno's team will repeat the thruster experiment in Ann Arbor a few more times before dismantling the apparatus and taking it to NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif., for July tests inside a large vacuum chamber that more closely simulates Mars conditions. In the California tests, crushed walnut shells will be used to mimic the behavior of soil on Mars, where the surface gravity is 38 percent of Earth's gravity.

Renno and U-M doctoral candidate Manish Mehta said there are several concerns about the Phoenix thrusters. They said the supersonic exhaust jets could: buffet the spindly, three-legged probe during the critical final seconds before landing; scour the landing site and strip it of loose soil; and possibly contaminate the martian soil with hydrazine, the liquid fuel used in the thrusters.

"These experiments are mainly run to provide insight to the Phoenix team, so they know what to expect and can somewhat prepare for it," said Mehta, who will use the results in his doctoral dissertation. U-M aerospace engineering senior Neal Rusche and other students from Renno's Multidisciplinary Engineering Design course also are on the team.

Another set of Phoenix experiments underway in Renno's lab examines the 8-foot robotic arm's ability to deliver soil samples from its scoop into onboard science instruments.

Mission engineers had planned to dump soil samples into the mini-lab intakes from a height of 10 centimeters, about 4 inches. Renno said winds of up to 11 mph are expected much of the time at the Phoenix landing site during the three-month main mission, which begins with arrival on May 25, 2008.

"We calculated that if you deploy the soil 10 centimeters above the instrument intake, most of the particles will be blown away and will not fall inside the instrument," Renno said. "So now we want to test that in the lab to see if the calculations are really true."

In coming weeks, Renno and his students will release wood grains of various densities inside a small U-M wind tunnel and photograph the blowing particles with a high-speed camera. Ebony, bamboo and balsa will be used to represent ice, soil and dust.

If the tests show that even relatively weak winds could hinder Phoenix sample delivery, one option is to move the scoop closer before dumping. But that also increases the risk that the robotic arm might strike the spacecraft.

"These tests are valuable in two ways," said Leslie Tamppari, Phoenix project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "One is to alert us that we want to get the scoop as close as possible to deliver the samples."

Though the original plan was to dump samples from a height of 10 centimeters, it should be possible to do it safely from 3 centimeters (1.2 inches), she said.

"And if we learn that the winds pick up every day in the afternoon but are calm in the morning—as you might expect—then we would probably try to deliver the samples in the morning, so we minimize losses," Tamppari said.


Related Links:

Phoenix mission

U-M Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences


Source: U-M press release

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Phoenix Lander on Mars

linked-image

NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander monitors the atmosphere overhead and reaches out to the soil below in this artist's depiction of the spacecraft fully deployed on the surface of Mars.

Phoenix has been assembled and tested for launch in August 2007 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., and for landing in May or June 2008 on an arctic plain of far-northern Mars. The mission responds to evidence returned from NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter in 2002 indicating that most high-latitude areas on Mars have frozen water mixed with soil within arm's reach of the surface.

Phoenix will use a robotic arm to dig down to the expected icy layer and analyze scooped-up samples of the soil and ice for factors that will help scientists evaluate whether the subsurface environment at the site ever was, or may still be, a favorable habitat for microbial life. The instruments on Phoenix will also gather information to advance understanding about the history of the water in the icy layer. A weather station on the lander will conduct the first study Martian arctic weather from ground level.

The vertical green line in this illustration shows how the weather station on Phoenix will use a laser beam from a lidar instrument to monitor dust and clouds in the atmosphere. The dark "wings" to either side of the lander's main body are solar panels for providing electric power.

Image credit: NASA/JPL/UA/Lockheed Martin

+ Full Resolution (2.85 Mb)


Source: NASA - Multimedia - Image of the Day Gallery

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Phoenix Set for a Mars Arctic Expedition

06.29.07


Just as NASA's Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, captured the imagination of old and young alike as they explored the Martian surface, a new space explorer is waiting in the wings to take center stage: the Mars lander called Phoenix.

Set for launch in August aboard a Delta II rocket, Phoenix's assignment is to dig through the Martian soil in the arctic region where water and ice exist and then use its onboard scientific instruments to analyze the samples it retrieves. Phoenix will look not only for water, but also for any signs that some form of life does or could exist.

linked-image
Image above: The spacecraft undergoes illumination testing of its solar
arrays in a clean room after arriving at NASA's Kennedy Space Center
in Florida.
Image credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett


As the Delta rocket is being assembled at Launch Pad 17A at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, the Phoenix spacecraft is in an environmentally controlled "clean room" at the nearby Kennedy Space Center, where it's undergoing the final checks and preparations before being moved to the launch pad. It was delivered to the space center from Colorado, where it was built and extensively tested by Lockheed Martin Space Systems.

"We have, in essence, two vehicles that we have to verify," says Ed Sedivy, Phoenix program manager for Lockheed Martin. "There is the vehicle that gets us there and then there's the vehicle we operate on the surface of the planet. That's something that is unique about a lander."

Since the spacecraft's arrival at Kennedy, technicians have completed an illumination check of the solar arrays, and are continuing to perform other preflight tests and install final components like the descent parachute, flight radar and heat shield.

Once Phoenix is encapsulated in the third-stage fairing, the spacecraft will move to the launch pad in a protective canister and be hoisted atop the rocket about two weeks before liftoff. But the marriage between spacecraft and launch vehicle actually begins years before a mission is scheduled.

linked-image
Image above: On Launch Pad 17-A at Cape Canaveral Air
Force Station in Florida, a third solid rocket booster is raised
from its transporter before being lifted into the mobile service
tower. The booster is one of nine that will be attached to the
Delta II rocket's first stage (background) to power the Phoenix
launch.
Image credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett


"Usually about three to five years before launch, we work with the spacecraft project, Lockheed in this case, to make sure the spacecraft design is compliant with the launch vehicle that the mission is going to launch on," says Ron Mueller, mission manager for Phoenix launch integration.

This will be the 326th flight of a Delta II rocket, which also was the launch vehicle that carried the two Mars rovers on the first leg of their voyage.

The cruise phase of the journey to the red planet will take more than nine months. Once the spacecraft reaches its destination, landing isn't an easy task, employing both a parachute to first slow the vehicle, and hydrazine-powered engines on the underside to control the speed of the final descent to the surface.
+View artist's conception of Phoenix's descent to Mars (NASA-JPL/Corby Waste)

Phoenix Project Manager Barry Goldstein As the spacecraft hurls through the Martian atmosphere, the parachute is deployed by a mortar and slows the rate of descent from supersonic to subsonic. "We then drop down using propulsive engines," explains Barry Goldsetin, Phoenix project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. "That takes us from 120 miles per hour to 5 miles per hour at touchdown."

linked-image
Image above: With the spacecraft visible behind him in the clean room,
Phoenix Program Manager Barry Goldstein briefs the news media.
Image credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett


Once on the surface, the lander will wait about 30 minutes, allowing the dust kicked up by the landing to settle, before deploying its two circular solar arrays, robotic arm, weather mast and camera.
+View artist's conception of Phoenix working on Mars (NASA-JPL/Corby Waste)

Phoenix's scientific work will be directed by a group from the University of Arizona, led by Principal Investigator Peter Smith. What discoveries NASA and Smith's team will uncover is hard to predict but, once again, the mysteries of the red planet have the potential to captivate an Earth-bound audience.

Cheryl L. Mansfield
NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center


Source: NASA - Missions - Mars

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Picturesque Orion

Ahh this mission is gonna get very interesting.

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Waspie_Dwarf
One image planned during descent of Phoenix


July 3, 2007

Extensive testing of NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander in preparation for an August launch has uncovered a potential data-handling problem in time to modify plans for use of a camera during the final minutes of arrival at Mars.

The testing results led to a decision to take just one photograph with the spacecraft's Mars Descent Imager. The mission will still be capable of accomplishing all of its science goals.

The issue is not the camera itself, which is capable of taking multiple downward-looking images of the landing area during the final three minutes of flight. Tests of the assembled lander found that an interface card has a small possibility of triggering loss of some vital engineering data if it receives imaging data during a critical phase of final descent. That possibility is considered an unacceptable risk, and the potential problem with the interface card was identified too late for changing hardware. The card has circuitry that routes data from various parts of the payload.

The descent camera can store one image internally. The mission's science team plans to use that image to place in context observations of the landing site acquired by the lander's other tools -- including two cameras, two microscopes, a robotic arm and analytical instruments. This single view will show smaller details of the terrain than will be discernable in images acquired by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which itself can resolve features smaller than the Phoenix lander.

Preparation of the spacecraft is moving on schedule toward loading propellant before encapsulating Phoenix into the third stage of its Delta II launch vehicle in mid-July. A three-week period of launch opportunity dates begins Aug. 3.

Phoenix will go to an arctic plain where an icy layer is expected to lie within arm's reach of the surface. There it will examine whether the environment beneath the surface has been a favorable habitat for microbial life. It will also investigate the history of the water in the ice and monitor Mars' arctic weather.

The Phoenix mission is led by Peter Smith of the University of Arizona on behalf of NASA, with project management at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and development partnership at Lockheed Martin. International contributions are provided by the Canadian Space Agency, the University of Neuchatel (Switzerland), the University of Copenhagen (Denmark), the Max Planck Institute (Germany) and the Finnish Meteorological Institute. The Mars Descent Imager was supplied by Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego.


Source: UA - Phoenix - Mission

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Waspie_Dwarf

Spacecraft: Phoenix

Launch Vehicle: Delta II

Launch Location: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida

Launch Pad: Space Launch Complex 17-A

Launch Date: Aug. 3, 2007

Launch Window: 5:35:18 a.m. EDT

The Rocket

The Phoenix spacecraft is set to begin its journey toward Mars aboard a Delta II rocket. The Delta II is designed to boost medium-sized satellites and robotic explorers into space. NASA selected a model 7925 for this mission, which is a three-stage rocket equipped with nine strap-on solid rocket boosters and a 10-foot payload fairing that will protect the spacecraft during launch.

linked-image

Image above: The Delta II that will carry the Phoenix

spacecraft is assembled at the launch pad.

Image credit: NASA/KSC

Source: NASA - Phoenix - Launch

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Owlscrying

July 9

A SPACE probe designed to look for signs of life in the oceans that once covered Mars will this week be unveiled by NASA scientists.

The Phoenix Mars Lander will be sent to the icy wastelands near the red planet's north polar ice cap. It will be launched next month, and is expected to reach the planet in May.

When the probe lands, its task will be to dig deep into the soil, scoop out chunks of ice and analyse them for signs of past or present life forms. The landing site has been chosen as the most likely point to find buried ice that once formed part of the planet's oceans.

Mars is now a cold desert planet with the thinnest of atmospheres and no water on the surface. However, previous missions have shown that there are large amounts of ice below the planet's crust in the northern arctic plains.

Data from previous missions suggest that billions of years ago, water flowed through canyons and formed shallow seas. Some of these may have still been in existence 100,000 years ago.

The search for water is more than scientific. NASA's long-term goal is to send a human to Mars and a manned mission would be easier if the crew were guaranteed a source of water.

The Phoenix probe is one of the largest that NASA has sent to Mars and will require descent thrusters to control the landing.

NASA is also this week due to launch its Dawn probe, which will penetrate deep into the asteroid belt that lies between Mars and Jupiter. It will investigate two of the largest asteroids, thought to be part of the "rubble" left over from the formation of the solar system 4.5 billion years ago.

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=NASA Readies Mars Lander for August Launch to Icy Site


The linked-image press release is reproduced below:
Dwayne Brown/Grey Hautaluoma
Headquarters, Washington
202-358-1726/0668

Guy Webster
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
818-354-6278

Sara Hammond
University of Arizona, Tucson
520-626-1974
July 9, 2007


RELEASE: 07-148


NASA Readies Mars Lander for August Launch to Icy Site


WASHINGTON - NASA's next Mars mission will look beneath a frigid arctic landscape for conditions favorable to past or present life.

Instead of roving to hills or craters, NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander will claw down into the icy soil of the Red Planet's northern plains. The robot will investigate whether frozen water near the Martian surface might periodically melt enough to sustain a livable environment for microbes. To accomplish that and other key goals, Phoenix will carry a set of advanced research tools never before used on Mars.

First, however, it must launch from Florida during a three-week period beginning Aug. 3, then survive a risky descent and landing on Mars next spring.

"Our 'follow the water' strategy for exploring Mars has yielded a string of dramatic discoveries in recent years about the history of water on a planet where similarities with Earth were much greater in the past than they are today," said Doug McCuistion, director of the Mars Exploration Program at NASA Headquarters, Washington. "Phoenix will complement our strategic exploration of Mars by being our first attempt to actually touch and analyze Martian water -- water in the form of buried ice."

NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter found evidence in 2002 to support theories that large areas of Mars, including the arctic plains, have water ice within an arm's reach of the surface.

"Phoenix has been designed to examine the history of the ice by measuring how liquid water has modified the chemistry and mineralogy of the soil," said Peter Smith, the Phoenix principal investigator at the University of Arizona, Tucson.

"In addition, our instruments can assess whether this polar environment is a habitable zone for primitive microbes. To complete the scientific characterization of the site, Phoenix will monitor polar weather and the interaction of the atmosphere with the surface."

With its flanking solar panels unfurled, the lander is about 18 feet wide and 5 feet long. A robotic arm 7.7 feet long will dig to the icy layer, which is expected to lie within a few inches of the surface. A camera and conductivity probe on the arm will examine soil and any ice there. The arm will lift samples to two instruments on the lander's deck. One will use heating to check for volatile substances, such as water and carbon-based chemicals that are essential building blocks for life. The other will analyze the chemistry of the soil.

A meteorology station, with a laser for assessing water and dust in the atmosphere, will monitor weather throughout the planned three-month mission during Martian spring and summer. The robot's toolkit also includes a mast-mounted stereo camera to survey the landing site, a descent camera to see the site in broader context and two microscopes.

For the final stage of landing, Phoenix is equipped with a pulsed thruster method of deceleration. The system uses an ultra-lightweight landing system that allows the spacecraft to carry a heavier scientific payload. Like past Mars missions, Phoenix uses a heat shield to slow its high-speed entry, followed by a supersonic parachute that further reduces its speed to about 135 mph. The lander then separates from the parachute and fires pulsed descent rocket engines to slow to about 5.5 mph before landing on its three legs.

"Landing safely on Mars is difficult no matter what method you use," said Barry Goldstein, the project manager for Phoenix at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "Our team has been testing the system relentlessly since 2003 to identify and address whatever vulnerabilities may exist."

Researchers evaluating possible landing sites have used observations from Mars orbiters to find the safest places where the mission's goals can be met. The leading candidate site is a broad valley with few boulders at a latitude equivalent to northern Alaska.

Smith leads the Phoenix mission, with project management at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the development partnership located at Lockheed Martin, Denver. International contributions are provided by the Canadian Space Agency, the University of Neuchatel, Switzerland, the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, the Max Planck Institute, Germany, and the Finnish Meteorological Institute.

Additional information on NASA's Mars program is available online at:


Additional information on NASA's Mars program is available online at:
http://www.nasa.gov/mars

- end -

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Source: NASA Press Release 07-148

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Waspie_Dwarf

Terrain Type for Phoenix Landing

linked-image

This view shows the texture of the ground in the area favored as a landing site for NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander mission. The pattern resembles permafrost terrain on Earth, where cycles of thawing and freezing cause cracking into polygon shapes. This is a subframe, covering a patch of ground about 700 meters (2,300 feet) across, from a larger image taken by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on Nov. 11, 2006. The full image, catalogued as PSP_001418_2495, shows an area of far-northern Mars centered at 69.2 degrees north latitude, 234.2 degrees east longitude.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, is the prime contractor for the project and built the spacecraft. The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment is operated by the University of Arizona, Tucson, and the instrument was built by Ball Aerospace and Technology Corp., Boulder, Colo.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

+ Larger view

Source: NASA - Missions - Phoenix - Multimedia

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Both Solar Arrays Open on Phoenix Mars Lander

linked-image

NASA's next Mars-bound spacecraft, the Phoenix Mars Lander, was partway through assembly and testing at Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, in September 2006, progressing toward an August 2007 launch from Florida. In this photograph, spacecraft specialists work on the lander after its fan-like circular solar arrays have been spread open for testing. The arrays will be in this configuration when the spacecraft is active on the surface of Mars.

Image credit: NASA/JPL/UA/Lockheed Martin

+ Higher resolution JPEG (800Kb)

Source: NASA - Missions - Phoenix - Multimedia

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Waspie_Dwarf

Phoenix Spacecraft: Next Stop, Mars

A new space explorer is waiting in the wings and ready to take center stage: the Mars lander called Phoenix. Set for launch aboard a Delta II rocket, Phoenix's assignment is to dig through the Martian soil and ice in the arctic region and use its onboard scientific instruments to analyze the samples it retrieves.

Both rocket and spacecraft are undergoing final preparation at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

linked-image

Image above: In the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at NASA's

Kennedy Space Center in Florida, a clean room technician takes a

measurement on the Phoenix spacecraft.

Image credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

+ View larger image

Source: NASA - Missions - Phoenix Mars Lander

Edited by Waspie_Dwarf

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Waspie_Dwarf

Phoenix Spacecraft: Next Stop, Mars

A new space explorer is waiting in the wings and ready to take center stage: the Mars lander called Phoenix. Set for launch aboard a Delta II rocket, Phoenix's assignment is to dig through the Martian soil and ice in the arctic region and use its onboard scientific instruments to analyze the samples it retrieves.

Both rocket and spacecraft are undergoing final preparation at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

linked-image

Image above: On Pad 17A at Cape Canaveral Air Force

Station in Florida, the Delta II launch vehicle that will

carry the Phoenix spacecraft.

Image credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

+ View larger image

Source: NASA - Missions - Phoenix Mars Lander

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Waspie_Dwarf

Phoenix Spacecraft: Next Stop, Mars

A new space explorer is waiting in the wings and ready to take center stage: the Mars lander called Phoenix. Set for launch aboard a Delta II rocket, Phoenix's assignment is to dig through the Martian soil and ice in the arctic region and use its onboard scientific instruments to analyze the samples it retrieves.

Both rocket and spacecraft are undergoing final preparation at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

linked-image

Image above: In the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at NASA's

Kennedy Space Center in Florida, workers guide the Phoenix Mars Lander

spacecraft onto the upper stage booster.

Image credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis

+ View larger image

Source: NASA - Missions - Phoenix Mars Lander

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Waspie_Dwarf

Phoenix Spacecraft: Next Stop, Mars

A new space explorer is waiting in the wings and ready to take center stage: the Mars lander called Phoenix. Set for launch aboard a Delta II rocket, Phoenix's assignment is to dig through the Martian soil and ice in the arctic region and use its onboard scientific instruments to analyze the samples it retrieves.

Both rocket and spacecraft are undergoing final preparation at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

linked-image

Image above: In the clean room of the Payload Hazardous Servicing

Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, workers guide the

heat shield into place before securing it to the spacecraft. Phoenix will

be transported to Launch Pad 17-A and attached to the Delta II rocket

on July 23.

Image credit: NASA/Troy Cryder

+ View larger image

Source: NASA - Missions - Phoenix Mars Lander

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Waspie_Dwarf

Phoenix Spacecraft: Next Stop, Mars

A new space explorer is waiting in the wings and ready to take center stage: the Mars lander called Phoenix. Set for launch aboard a Delta II rocket, Phoenix's assignment is to dig through the Martian soil and ice in the arctic region and use its onboard scientific instruments to analyze the samples it retrieves.

Both rocket and spacecraft are undergoing final preparation at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

linked-image

Image above: The Phoenix spacecraft is uncovered inside the mobile

service tower of Launch Pad 17-A at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station

in Florida.

Image credit: NASA/George Shelton

+ View larger image

Source: NASA - Missions - Phoenix Mars Lander

Edited by Waspie_Dwarf

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Waspie_Dwarf

Spacecraft: Phoenix

Launch Vehicle: Delta II

Launch Location: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida

Launch Pad: Space Launch Complex 17-A

Launch Date: Aug. 3, 2007

Launch Window: 5:35:18 a.m. EDT

The Rocket

The Phoenix spacecraft is set to begin its journey toward Mars aboard a Delta II rocket. The Delta II is designed to boost medium-sized satellites and robotic explorers into space. NASA selected a model 7925 for this mission, which is a three-stage rocket equipped with nine strap-on solid rocket boosters and a 10-foot payload fairing that will protect the spacecraft during launch.

linked-image

Image above: Attached to an overhead crane, the Phoenix spacecraft

is lifted alongside the mobile service tower of Launch Pad 17-A at Cape

Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Image credit: NASA/George Shelton

Source: NASA - Phoenix - Launch

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Waspie_Dwarf

Phoenix Spacecraft: Next Stop, Mars

A new space explorer is waiting in the wings and ready to take center stage: the Mars lander called Phoenix. Set for launch aboard a Delta II rocket, Phoenix's assignment is to dig through the Martian soil and ice in the arctic region and use its onboard scientific instruments to analyze the samples it retrieves.

Both rocket and spacecraft are undergoing final preparation at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

linked-image

Image above: On Launch Pad 17-A at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station

in Florida, the first half of the fairing is installed around the Phoenix

spacecraft.

Image credit: NASA/George Shelton

+ View larger image

Source: NASA - Missions - Phoenix Mars Lander

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Waspie_Dwarf

Spacecraft: Phoenix

Launch Vehicle: Delta II

Launch Location: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida

Launch Pad: Space Launch Complex 17-A

Launch Date: Aug. 3, 2007

Launch Window: 5:35:18 a.m. EDT

The Rocket

The Phoenix spacecraft is set to begin its journey toward Mars aboard a Delta II rocket. The Delta II is designed to boost medium-sized satellites and robotic explorers into space. NASA selected a model 7925 for this mission, which is a three-stage rocket equipped with nine strap-on solid rocket boosters and a 10-foot payload fairing that will protect the spacecraft during launch.

linked-image

Image above: Attached to an overhead crane, the Phoenix spacecraft

is lifted alongside the mobile service tower of Launch Pad 17-A at Cape

Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Image credit: NASA/George Shelton

+ View Larger Image

Source: NASA - Phoenix - Launch

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