Monday, May 26, 2008

The Next Day

Phoenix is still on the ground (shocker!) and things seem to be going very well. I'm home right now, after having gone to bed at about 12:30 this morning. This morning I've been reading the email traffic since I left last night. From the looks of it, we did get the picture of the lander during descent, and it appears that it was released, so I'll include it here:

The caption for the picture reads:

From a distance of about 472 miles above the surface of the Red Planet, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter pointed its HiRISE obliquely toward Phoenix shortly after it opened its parachute while descending through the Martian atmosphere. The image reveals an apparent 30-foot-wide parachute fully inflated. The bright pixels below the parachute show a dangling Phoenix. The image faintly detects the chords attaching the backshell and parachute. The surroundings look dark, but corresponds to the fully illuminated Martian surface, which is much darker than the parachute and backshell.

Phoenix released its parachute at an altitude of about 7.8 miles and a velocity of 1.7 times the speed of sound.

The HiRISE, acquired this image on May 25 at 7:36 p.m. Eastern Time. It is a highly oblique view of the Martian surface, 26 degrees above the horizon, or 64 degrees from the normal straight-down imaging of Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The image has a scale of 0.76 meters per pixel.

You can lighten the image a bit to see some of the background of Mars.

It should be interesting to see how things are when I get to work. I've asked our navigators to pull together a movie of the reconstructed trajectory of both Phoenix during it's terminal descent and MRO so we can see exactly when/where the image was taken.

In other news, it's the Memorial Day holiday. The kids are home from school today (and driving us nuts). My wife fled the house to go clothes shopping and to buy a tree for the back yard just to have some time away. She's been front-and-center in the fight to potty-train our youngest (which is going very well) while I was at work yesterday, so she really needed the break.

Anyway, even though I'm here with the kids, they're all distracted, and my mind keeps focusing on work. Kind of a tough thing to let go, since my life for the past year-and-a-half has been centered around getting ready for Phoenix to get to Mars. They're there now, things have mostly "fallen" into place, and things are going smoothly. Everybody's doing their jobs as I trained them to do them (looking pretty good, if I do say so myself), and the software and operational strategies are hanging together.

With Phoenix on the ground, it would be easy to feel relief. Truth be told, what is to come for Phoenix will be harder on the team than what has already happened. With Mars Science Laboratory launching next year, they will be knocking on our door now to do testing and development for them, too. Not exactly a break. Time will tell, though.

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