Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The State of Things As They Are

Well, so the radio seems to be behaving much, much better since yesterday, though we still don't know why it had a problem. Apparently, the radio tripped a "power-on reset", and it took slightly too long to recover, and the rest of the spacecraft thought it was broken and powered it off. We scrambled to power it back on, but we saw on the next recording session a similar thing, but the reset was speedy enough that the spacecraft didn't power it down. What's weirdest of all is that we've had 7 overflights since then and we haven't seen the same thing again.

Bottom line: the root cause is not known at this time, neither is a workaround. Electra can not be considered a reliable relay link.

In other news, the spectacular image I posted yesterday was taken approximately 20 seconds after the parachute deployed, and 3 seconds after the heat shield separated. The lander was in-flight, about 760 kilometers away at a viewing angle of 26 degrees below the horizon (or 64 degrees from our normal viewing angle of straight down, or nadir). Apparently, the scale of the image is about 0.76 meters per pixel.

We also believe we have precisely pinpointed the lander, though the coordinates don't currently match where the Phoenix project believes they are with other data. In the pictures, the lander itself is somewhere about 68.224246 N latitude (in aerocentric coordinates) and 234.247463 W latitude. I'm sure there's some geocachers out there, who would be interested in knowing that if you were to go there on Earth you'd go to the middle of the (quite desolate) Republic of Sakha in Russia. Very cool.

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