Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Phoenix Mars lander puts arm, tools to work

30.05.2008
NASA's Mars lander is returning more detailed images from the Martian surface and is now preparing its instruments for science operations.

Phoenix transmitted a 360-degree panorama of its frigid Martian world, freed its nearly 8-foot robotic arm, tested a laser instrument for studying dust and clouds, and transmitted its second weather report on Wednesday evening.

"We've imaged the entire landing site, all 360 degrees of it. We see it all,"
said Phoenix principal investigator Peter Smith, University of Arizona, Tucson.
"You can see the lander in a fish-eye view that goes all the way out to the entire horizon "We are now making plans for where to dig first, and what we'll save for later."

Commands were communicated to Phoenix to rotate the robotic arm's wrist to unlatch its launch lock, raise the forearm and move it upright to release the elbow restraint.

"We're pleased that we successfully unstowed the robotic arm. In fact, this is the first time we have moved the arm in about a year," said Matthew Robinson of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. The arm deployment brings the Phoenix mission to a significant milestone.

"We have achieved all of our engineering characterization prerequisites, with all the critical deployments behind us," said JPL's Barry Goldstein, Phoenix project manager. "We're now at a phase of the mission where we're characterizing the science payload instruments. That's a very important step for us."

After a health check that tests the arm at a range of warmer and colder temperatures, the titanium and aluminum arm will soon be tasked with its first

assignment: to use its camera to look under the spacecraft to assess the terrain and underside of the lander.

The robotic arm will later trench into the icy layers of northern polar Mars and deliver samples to instruments that will analyze what this part of Mars is made of, what its water is like, and whether it is or has ever been a possible habitat for life.

Another milestone for the mission included the activation of the laser instrument called light detection and ranging instrument, or lidar.

"The Canadians are walking on moonbeams. It's a huge achievement for us," said Jim Whiteway Canadian Science lead from York University, Toronto. The lidar is a critical component of Phoenix's weather station, provided by the Canadian Space Agency. The instrument is designed to detect dust, clouds and fog by emitting rapid pulses of green laser-like light into the atmosphere. The light bounces off particles and is reflected back to a telescope.

"One of the main challenges we faced was to deliver the lidar from the test lab in Ottawa, Canada, to Mars while maintaining its alignment within one one-hundredth of a degree," said Whiteway. "That's like aiming a laser pointer at a baseball at a distance from home plate to the center field wall, holding that aim steady after launch for a year in space, then landing," he added.

Lidar data shows dust aloft to a height of 3.5 kilometers (2 miles). The weather at the Phoenix landing site on the second day following landing was sunny with moderate dust, with a high of minus 30 degrees Celsius (minus 22 degrees Fahrenheit) and a low of minus 80 (minus 112 degrees Fahrenheit).

The Phoenix mission is led by Smith at the University of Arizona with project management at JPL and development partnership at Lockheed Martin, Denver.

International contributions come from the Canadian Space Agency; the University of Neuchatel, Switzerland; the universities of Copenhagen and Aarhus, Denmark; Max Planck Institute, Germany; and the Finnish Meteorological Institute.

MEDIA CONTACTS:

Guy Webster 818-354-5011
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
guy.webster@jpl.nasa.gov
Dwayne Brown 202-358-1726
NASA Headquarters, Washington
dwayne.c.brown@nasa.gov
Sara Hammond 520-626-1974
University of Arizona, Tucson
shammond@lpl.arizona.edu

Lori Stiles | University of Arizona
Further information:
http://www.nasa.gov/phoenix
http://phoenix.lpl.arizona.edu
http://www.arizona.edu

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Climate cycles may explain how running water carved Mars' surface features
02.12.2016 | Penn State

nachricht What do Netflix, Google and planetary systems have in common?
02.12.2016 | University of Toronto

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

Im Focus: Fraunhofer ISE Develops Highly Compact, High Frequency DC/DC Converter for Aviation

The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

UTSA study describes new minimally invasive device to treat cancer and other illnesses

02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering

Plasma-zapping process could yield trans fat-free soybean oil product

02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

What do Netflix, Google and planetary systems have in common?

02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>