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Three Days and Counting!
Deborah Bass Three days and counting! The science team is all assembled in Tucson to wait for landing. It feels a bit like waiting for a theatrical performance or an instrument recital -- we're tuned up, and the anticipation of curtain time is growing.

In the meantime, I'd like to address some of the questions and comments that came up in the comments to my previous entry on habitability.

First of all, thanks to everyone who posted good wishes and hopeful thoughts! I am not exactly superstitious, but I think positive vibes cannot but help!

The landing will be broadcast on NASA TV. ( Go to http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/nasatv/) and www.jpl.nasa.gov will stream it across the internet as well. So you can see it that way if you don't have NASA TV directly. artist concept of Phoenix digging on Mars Artist's concept of Phoenix digging on Mars.
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The statement was made that a stationary lander was a crazy way to look for habitability -- why not rove? If one looks at the northern arctic of Mars, it appears much the same in the regions we were considering landing. We expect that the main discoveries for Phoenix are not in the horizontal plane, but rather in the vertical -- beneath the surface. It makes sense, then, to send a space vehicle that can access the subsurface. The Phoenix robotic arm can dig up to a half meter (approx 1.5 feet). The models of subsurface ice strongly suggest that it is above that half-meter mark, so we don't believe there will be difficulty getting to ice.

I look at the issue of finding life directly this way. Let's say an alien landed on Earth and decided that skyscrapers were evidence of life on Earth. Then they dropped down into the middle of the Sahara desert. No skyscrapers! They would have to conclude that there was no life on Earth. So what I'm saying is that one has to go to the correct place with the right instrumentation to find life on something as big as a planet. Phoenix will help narrow that search on Mars by finding a likely location for life to have existed -- back to that notion of habitability again.

Another comment related to the "life as we know it" issue. Well, if we're looking for life as we *don't* know it, how would we recognize it? Wouldn't it be most tragic to have come across life and not be able to recognize it? But seriously, we have to start somewhere, and the plan is to use criteria we can understand and recognize -- ability to metabolize energy, ability to grow, ability to reproduce, ability to change (mutate) and ability to reproduce those mutations. This gives us the starting point of carbon-based life that requires water. Hence Phoenix's criteria for habitability.

If Phoenix is able to locate a true habitable zone, I believe that NASA's Mars program will take this into consideration for future missions to Mars.

BTW, that DVD with names on it that people signed, it is indeed on the lander!

And to conclude, I did want to mention that I do believe I am incredibly fortunate to work in the space industry and Mars missions! I'm very passionate about what I do, and I love going to work each day. The mental puzzles and people I get to work with are some of the best and brightest. It is a privilege to be a part of NASA.

Deborah Bass
Deputy Project Scientist

To learn more about the spacecraft and the mission, check out the following sites:

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