Phoenix Mars Scout (includes NASA Ames partnership)
Planned Launch: August 2007
Arrival: May 25, 2008
The Phoenix mission is the first chosen for NASA's Scout program, an initiative for smaller, lower-cost, competed spacecraft. Named for the resilient mythological bird, Phoenix uses a lander that was intended for use by 2001's Mars Surveyor lander prior to its cancellation. It also carries a complex suite of instruments that are improved variations of those that flew on the lost Mars Polar Lander.
In the continuing pursuit of water on Mars, the poles are a good place to probe, as water ice is found there. Phoenix will land on the icy northern pole of Mars between 65 and 75-north latitude. During the course of the 150-martian-day mission, Phoenix will deploy its robotic arm and dig trenches up to 1.6 feet (one half meter) into the layers of water ice. These layers, thought to be affected by seasonal climate changes, could contain organic compounds that are necessary for life.
To analyze soil samples collected by the robotic arm, Phoenix will carry an ‘oven’ and a ‘portable laboratory.’ Selected samples will be heated to release volatiles that can be examined for their chemical composition and other characteristics.
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 also will provide range maps that will enable the team to choose ideal digging locations. Multi-spectral capability will enable the identification of local minerals.
To update our understanding of martian atmospheric processes, Phoenix will also scan 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. It also will carry temperature and pressure sensors.
For more information on the Phoenix mission, visit:
NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
|Key Mission People
Christopher McKay, Phoenix co-investigator, biological interpretation, NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.
McKay is also involved in other planetary research.
Carol Stoker, Phoenix co-investigator, 3-D mapping, spectroscopy, habitability, NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.
Aaron Zent, Phoenix co-Investigator, soil-atmosphere interaction, NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.
John Marshall, Phoenix co-investigator, Soil Science, Geological Studies, SETI Institute, Mountain View, Calif.
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