Phoenix Mars Lander Status Report: Radar and Other Gear Pass Checkouts
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
September 04, 2007
Two crucial tools for a successful landing of America’s latest mission
to Mars, the radar and UHF radio on NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander, have
passed in-flight checkouts.
The ultra-high-frequency radio won’t be turned on again until landing
day, May 25, 2008, when it will relay communications from Phoenix to
orbiters already in service around Mars. Since launch on Aug. 4, 2007,
and until the day it reaches Mars, Phoenix is communicating directly
with Earth via even higher frequency X-band radio, mounted on a part
the spacecraft that will be jettisoned shortly before Phoenix hits the
top of the Martian atmosphere.
The radar will monitor the spacecraft’s fast-shrinking distance to the
ground during the final three minutes before touchdown on Mars,
triggering descent-engine firings and other necessary events during
most challenging moments of the mission.
The Phoenix flight operations team tested the radar and UHF radio on
Aug. 24. Four days earlier, the team ran the first in-flight checkout
a Phoenix science instrument. This test focused on the Thermal and
Evolved-Gas Analyzer, which will check for water, carbon-containing
molecules and other chemicals of interest in the icy soil of Mars. The
checkout verified the health of an ion pump, which will be used during
the transit to Mars to remove most water vapor carried from Earth with
the instrument. Four additional science instruments are scheduled for
checkouts before the spacecraft’s next trajectory correction maneuver,
planned for Oct. 16.
As of Sept. 1, Phoenix will have covered 81 million kilometers (50
million miles) of its 679-million kilometer (422-million-mile) flight
Mars. It is traveling at 34 kilometers per second (76,000 mph) in
relation to the sun. Meanwhile, careful preparations continue for the
white-knuckle minutes before landing and the potential scientific
discoveries at the landing site.
“Everything is going as planned. No surprises, but this is one of
times when boring is good,” said Barry Goldstein, Phoenix project
manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.
Additional information on Phoenix is available online at:
http://www.nasa.gov/phoenix and at http://phoenix.lpl.arizona.edu.
Additional information on NASA’s Mars program is available online at:
Media contact: Guy Webster 818-354-6278
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
Sara Hammond 520-626-1974
University of Arizona, Tucson
Gary Napier 303-971-4012
Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver