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NASA'S Mars-Bound Phoenix Adjusts Course Successfully

MEDIA RELATIONS OFFICE
JET PROPULSION LABORATORY
CALIFORNIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY
NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION
PASADENA, CALIF. 91109. TELEPHONE 818-354-5011
http://www.jpl.nasa.gov

Guy Webster 818-354-6278
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
guy.webster@jpl.nasa.gov

Sara Hammond 520-626-1974
University of Arizona, Tucson
shammond@lpl.arizona.edu

Gary Napier 303-971-4012
Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver
gary.p.napier@lmco.com

NEWS RELEASE: 2007-088 August 10, 2007

NASA'S Mars-Bound Phoenix Adjusts Course Successfully

NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander today accomplished the first and largest of six course corrections planned during the spacecraft's flight from Earth to Mars.

Phoenix left Earth Aug. 4, bound for a challenging touchdown on May 25, 2008, at a site farther north than any previous Mars landing. It will robotically dig to underground ice and run laboratory tests assessing whether the site could ever have been hospitable to microbial life.

Phoenix today is traveling at about 33,180 meters per second (74,200 miles per hour) in relation to the sun. The first trajectory-correction maneuver was calculated to tweak the velocity by about 18.5 meters per second (41 miles per hour). The spacecraft fired its four mid-size thrusters for three minutes and 17 seconds to adjust its trajectory.

"All the subsystems are functioning as expected with few deviations from predicted performance," said Joe Guinn, Phoenix mission system manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Key activities in the next few weeks will include checkouts of science instruments, radar and the communication system that will be used during and after the landing.

The second trajectory-correction maneuver is planned for mid-October. "These first two together take out the bias intentionally put in at launch," said JPL's Brian Portock, Phoenix navigation team chief. Without the correction maneuvers, the spacecraft's course after launch day would miss Mars by about 950,000 kilometers (590,000 miles), an intentional offset to prevent the third stage of the launch vehicle from hitting Mars. The launch vehicle is not subject to the rigorous cleanliness requirements that the spacecraft must meet as a protection against letting Earth organisms get a foothold on Mars.

The burn began at 11:30 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time. Each of the four trajectory-correction thrusters provides about 15.6 newtons (3.5 pounds) of force. Smaller, attitude-control thrusters pivoted the spacecraft to the desired orientation a few minutes before the main burn and returned it afterward to the right orientation for catching solar energy while communicating with Earth. Their thrust capacity is about 4.4 newtons (1 pound) apiece. The twelve largest thrusters on Phoenix, delivering about 293 newtons (66 pounds) apiece, will operate only during the final minute before landing on Mars.

The Phoenix mission is led by Peter Smith of the University of Arizona, Tucson, with project management at JPL and development partnership at Lockheed Martin, Denver. International contributions are provided by the Canadian Space Agency; the University of Neuchatel, Switzerland; the universities of Copenhagen and Aarhus, Denmark; the Max Planck Institute, Germany; and the Finnish Meteorological Institute. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

Additional information on Phoenix is available online at: http://www.nasa.gov/phoenix and at http://phoenix.lpl.arizona.edu . Additional information on NASA's Mars program is available online at: http://www.nasa.gov/mars .



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Mars-Ice.org Revamped!!!

Mars-Ice.org has be reformatted with the same new software as Mars-Dunes.org. This should make browsing our website even easier now.



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Mars' South Pole Ice Deep and Wide

Mars' South Pole Ice Deep and Wide

March 15, 2007
Source: JPL
urements of Mars' south polar regionPasadena, Calif.� New Measurements of Mars' south polar region indicate extensive frozen water. The polar region contains enough frozen water to cover the whole planet in a liquid layer approximately 11 meters (36 feet) deep. A joint NASA-Italian Space Agency instrument on the European Space Agency's Mars Express spacecraft provided these data.

This new estimate comes from mapping the thickness of the ice. The Mars Express orbiter's radar instrument has made more than 300 virtual slices through layered deposits covering the pole to map the ice. The radar sees through icy layers to the lower boundary, which is as deep as 3.7 kilometers (2.3 miles) below the surface.

"The south polar layered deposits of Mars cover an area bigger than Texas. The amount of water they contain has been estimated before, but never with the level of confidence this radar makes possible," said Jeffrey Plaut of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena Calif. Plaut is co-principal investigator for the radar and lead author of a new report on these findings published in the March 15 online edition of the journal Science.

The instrument, named the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionospheric Sounding (MARSIS), also is mapping the thickness of similar layered deposits at the north pole of Mars.

"Our radar is doing its job extremely well," said Giovanni Picardi, a professor at the University of Rome "La Sapienza," and principal investigator for the instrument.

"MARSIS is showing itself to be a very powerful tool to probe underneath the Martian surface, and it's showing how our team's goals, such as probing the polar layered deposits, are being successfully achieved," Picardi said. "Not only is MARSIS providing us with the first-ever views of Mars subsurface at those depths, but the details we are seeing are truly amazing. We expect even greater results when we have concluded an ongoing, sophisticated fine-tuning of our data processing methods. These should enable us to understand even better the surface and subsurface composition."

Polar layered deposits hold most of the known water on modern Mars, though other areas of the planet appear to have been very wet at times in the past. Understanding the history and fate of water on Mars is a key to studying whether Mars has ever supported life, since all known life depends on liquid water.

The polar layered deposits extend beyond and beneath a polar cap of bright-white frozen carbon dioxide and water at Mars' south pole. Dust darkens many of the layers. However, the strength of the echo that the radar receives from the rocky surface underneath the layered deposits suggests the composition of the layered deposits is at least 90 percent frozen water. One area with an especially bright reflection from the base of the deposits puzzles researchers. It resembles what a thin layer of liquid water might look like to the radar instrument, but the conditions are so cold that the presence of melted water is deemed highly unlikely.

Detecting the shape of the ground surface beneath the ice deposits provides information about even deeper structures of Mars. "We didn't really know where the bottom of the deposit was," Plaut said. "Now we can see that the crust has not been depressed by the weight of the ice as it would be on the Earth. The crust and upper mantle of Mars are stiffer than the Earth's, probably because the interior of Mars is so much colder."

The MARSIS instrument on the European Space Agency's Mars Express orbiter was developed jointly by the Italian Space Agency and NASA, under the scientific supervision of the University of Rome "La Sapienza," in partnership with JPL and the University of Iowa, Iowa City. JPL manages NASA's roles in Mars Express for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington.

For information about NASA and agency programs, visit www.nasa.gov.



Phoenix Returns Treasure Trove for Science

Media contacts: Guy Webster 818-354-6278
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
guy.webster@jpl.nasa.gov
Sara Hammond 520-626-1974
University of Arizona, Tucson
shammond@lpl.arizona.edu
J.D. Harrington 202 358-5241
NASA Headquarters
j.d.harrington@nasa.gov
News Release: 2008-121 June 26, 2008

Phoenix Returns Treasure Trove for Science


NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander performed its first wet chemistry experiment on Martian soil flawlessly yesterday, returning a wealth of data that for Phoenix scientists was like winning the lottery.
"We are awash in chemistry data," said Michael Hecht of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, lead scientist for the Microscopy, Electrochemistry and Conductivity Analyzer, or MECA, instrument on Phoenix. "We're trying to understand what is the chemistry of wet soil on Mars, what's dissolved in it, how acidic or alkaline it is. With the results we received from Phoenix yesterday, we could begin to tell what aspects of the soil might support life."
"This is the first wet-chemical analysis ever done on Mars or any planet, other than Earth," said Phoenix co-investigator Sam Kounaves of Tufts University, science lead for the wet chemistry investigation.
About 80 percent of Phoenix's first, two-day wet chemistry experiment is now complete. Phoenix has three more wet-chemistry cells for use later in the mission.
"This soil appears to be a close analog to surface soils found in the upper dry valleys in Antarctica," Kouvanes said. "The alkalinity of the soil at this location is definitely striking. At this specific location, one-inch into the surface layer, the soil is very basic, with a pH of between eight and nine. We also found a variety of components of salts that we haven't had time to analyze and identify yet, but that include magnesium, sodium, potassium and chloride."
"This is more evidence for water because salts are there. We also found a reasonable number of nutrients, or chemicals needed by life as we know it," Kounaves said. "Over time, I've come to the conclusion that the amazing thing about Mars is not that it's an alien world, but that in many aspects, like mineralogy, it's very much like Earth."
Another analytical Phoenix instrument, the Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer (TEGA), has baked its first soil sample to 1,000 degrees Celsius (1,800 degrees Fahrenheit). Never before has a soil sample from another world been baked to such high heat.
TEGA scientists have begun analyzing the gases released at a range of temperatures to identify the chemical make-up of soil and ice. Analysis is a complicated, weeks-long process.
But "the scientific data coming out of the instrument have been just spectacular," said Phoenix co-investigator William Boynton of the University of Arizona, lead TEGA scientist.
"At this point, we can say that the soil has clearly interacted with water in the past. We don't know whether that interaction occurred in this particular area in the northern polar region, or whether it might have happened elsewhere and blown up to this area as dust."
Leslie Tamppari, the Phoenix project scientist from JPL, tallied what Phoenix has accomplished during the first 30 Martian days of its mission, and outlined future plans.
The Stereo Surface Imager has by now completed about 55 percent of its three-color, 360-degree panorama of the Phoenix landing site, Tamppari said. Phoenix has analyzed two samples in its optical microscope as well as first samples in both TEGA and the wet chemistry laboratory. Phoenix has been collecting information daily on clouds, dust, winds, temperatures and pressures in the atmosphere, as well as taking first nighttime atmospheric measurements.
Lander cameras confirmed that white chunks exposed during trench digging were frozen water ice because they sublimated, or vaporized, over a few days. The Phoenix robotic arm dug and sampled, and will continue to dig and sample, at the 'Snow White' trench in the center of a polygon in the polygonal terrain.
"We believe this is the best place for creating a profile of the surface from the top down to the anticipated icy layer," Tamppari said. "This is the plan we wanted to do when we proposed the mission many years ago. We wanted a place just like this where we could sample the soil down to the possible ice layer."
The Phoenix mission is led by Peter Smith of The University of Arizona with project management at JPL and development partnership at Lockheed Martin, located in 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. For more information on the Phoenix mission, link to http://www.nasa.gov/phoenix and http://phoenix.lpl.arizona.edu.



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Jets Bursting From Martian Ice Cap!

“Jets of carbon dioxide gas erupting from the ice cap as it warms in the spring carry dark sand and dust high aloft. The dark material falls back to the surface, creating dark patches on the ice cap which have long puzzled scientists.” or, are the dust a product of atmospheric circulation patterns? See for yourself.
Read the research article at Nature.com suggesting that there are CO2 jets on Mars
Read the research article at Nature.com suggesting that there is a different process at work
Read More at NASA.gov
Read More at THEMIS.ASU.edu
Read More at Space.com
Read More here at Mars-Ice.org



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June 19, 2006

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Aerobraking Progresses

“The orbits are getting shorter and shorter. We've finished about 80 of them so far, but we have about 400 more to go, and the pace really quickens toward the end,” said Dan Johnston, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter deputy mission manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
Supplementing the daily attentions of navigators, engineers and scientists, the orbiter has begun using unprecedented on board smarts to schedule some of its own attitude maneuvers during each orbit. Read more



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May 10, 2006

"Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Continues Aerobraking

NASA's latest orbiter to visit the Red Planet is well into its main phase of aerobraking. Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has cut about 10 hours off of its initial orbit by strategically dipping in and out of Mars' thin atmosphere." Read more



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March 11, 2006

MRO has arrived and is in orbit!
"Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter mission manager Jim Graf raises his arms in celebration of the orbiter's successful entry into orbit around Mars. Behind him is Jet Propulsion Laboratory Director Dr. Charles Elachi, giving the "thumbs up."
With a crucially timed firing of its main engines today, NASA's new mission to Mars successfully put itself into orbit around the red planet." Read more



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November 18, 2005

"Mars-Bound NASA Craft Tweaks Course, Passes Halfway Point
NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter successfully fired six engines for about 20 seconds today to adjust its flight path in advance of its March 10, 2006, arrival at the red planet.
Since its Aug. 12 launch, the multipurpose spacecraft has covered about 60 percent of the distance for its trip from Earth to Mars. It will fly about 40-million kilometers (25-million miles) farther before it enters orbit around Mars. It will spend half a year gradually adjusting the shape of its orbit, then begin its science phase. During that phase, it will return more data about Mars than all previous missions combined. The spacecraft has already set a record transmission rate for an interplanetary mission, successfully returning data at 6 megabits per second, fast enough to fill a CD-ROM every 16 minutes. " Read more



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October 20, 2005

"Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Is Already Breaking Records
The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter set the record for interplanetary missions, sending back the most data in a single day.
An unprecedented amount of data - the equivalent of 13 CDs - was returned by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter mission in a single day! NASA's latest mission to Mars sent 75 gigabits of data back to Earth from millions of miles away, including beautiful pictures of the Moon. " Read more



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August 30, 2005

"NASA's Mars Orbiter Makes Successful Course Correction
The spacecraft fired all six main thrusters for 15 seconds on Saturday, Aug. 27. The engine burn followed a 30-second burn of six smaller thrusters, which settled propellant in the craft's fuel tank for smoother flow. The spacecraft's orientation was adjusted prior to the burns to point the engines in the proper direction for the maneuver. The spacecraft returned to the regular cruise-phase attitude after the trajectory adjustment." Read more



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August 12, 2005

"MRO is on Its Way to the Red Planet
NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) successfully lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla at 7:43:00 a.m EDT on Aug 12. The spacecraft launched from Space Launch Complex 41 aboard NASA's first Atlas V rocket. The MRO is healthy and performing as designed, presently communicating with ground stations and unfurling its solar arrays." Read more