Sunday, May 25, 2008

CNN covers Mars Phoenix Lander touchdown in live mode (16 minutes behind for the speed of light)


Today, CNN covered live the “seven minutes of terror” for the Mars Phoenix Lander, live, from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, with Miles O’Brien as host. The lander is to land in the Martian north polar region to look for additional signs of Chemistry 301 (evidence of past organic activity and possible past or current life). Scientist Steve Squyres also helped explain the happenings. The employees at the JPL all wore blue T-shirts as a uniform.

With its current position relative to earth, it takes light about 16 minutes to reach the earth, so whatever was shown in the broadcast had happened that amount of time earlier. The lander had to be slowed from about 20000 mph, deploy a parachute, and descend through the thin Martian atmosphere, which is something like earth at over 20 miles (100000feet) in density and has mostly carbon dioxide (which probably makes the planet a little warmer than it would otherwise be). The last 6000 feet of descent would be slowed by rocket thrust. The temperature where the land touches down will be less than minus 200 F. Temperatures in the southern hemisphere summers on the ground in direct sun may reach close to 100 F sometimes.

The current CNN link is here.

Steve Squyers's blog along with a photo gallery is here.

New pictures from the surface, which may show carbon dioxide dry ice “snow” should be available at CNN after 10 PM EDT (7 PM PDT).

Update: One picture, black and white of bare ground, showed at 10 PM

Picture on this entry: "Mars" country north of Abilene, TX, with lots of red earth.

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