Monday, May 26, 2008

Mars...Here We Are!

Phoenix mission spacecraft made a successful landing on Mars, last Sunday, May 25, 2008. This ended the 32 years of silent activities of NASA-JPL mission team after the Viking 2 in 1976.


It was a thrilling touch-down on the red planet as shown at CNN News. The breath-taking 7-minute difficult entry and final descent in the Mars atmosphere kept the mission team at NASA-JPL, Pasadena, California, speechless and finally burst into cheers after the landing confirmation made by Mars Odyssey. The Phoenix survived the touch-down ambiguity without using the airbag as was done with other Viking’s Mission. One cannot imagine the sentiments of the mission members realizing the fruit of their hardship from the conception to the conclusion of the most difficult portion of the project – the Phoenix touch-down. Michael Griffin, head of NASA, said: “I couldn’t be happier to be here to witness this incredible achievement. For the first time in 32 years, and only the third time in history, a JPL team has carried out a soft landing on Mars.” Peter Smith of the University of Arizona and the Phoenix mission principal investigator, also said: “I can hardly contain my enthusiasm. The first landed images of the Martian polar terrain will set the state for our mission.”


Per NASA report, “Phoenix uses hardware from a spacecraft built for a 2001 launch that was canceled in response to the loss of a similar Mars spacecraft during a 1999 landing attempt. Researchers who proposed the Phoenix mission in 2002 saw the unused spacecraft as a resource for pursuing a new science opportunity.” With these uncertainties and the tight budget allotted in the project compounded by the worries of the 50 per cent rate of failure of the launching attempt on Mars since 1960 by the Soviet Union, the team members did not lost the eagerness and the high spirit of achieving the incredible tasks. Phoenix uses solar energy derived from the sun in its supply of electricity in negotiating the “422-million-mile” distance from Earth to Mars covering a nine-month journey. The “Lander,” dressed with the solar arrays –resembling a ready-to-fly-beetle as it landed on Mars’ target site-, the robotic arm, camera, and other accessories will now be ready to explore the hidden mystery of the Red Planet. It was earlier discovered by orbiting Mars Odyssey that “plentiful water ice lies just beneath the surface throughout much of high-latitude Mars.” It will not be too long that Phoenix will reveal that somewhere, somehow, Mars might have a habitable climate capable of supporting life.


We will be looking forward on the untiring effort of the Phoenix Mission Members in the pursuit of their scientific objectives. Theirs are worthy of emulation in spite of insurmountable difficulties, men always learn to overcome.

No comments: