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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Final missions ahead for Lander

    The Phoenix Mars Lander has finished delivering samples of soil to its onboard laboratories – one of the craft’s final tasks.

    The harsh Martian winter is approaching, thus bringing the science phase of the mission to a close, Mars Lander team members said.

    Carla Bitter, education and public outreach manager for NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander, spoke of the team’s enthusiasm for the upcoming weeks.

    “”We have discovered that we have enough power to leave the Phoenix’s heaters on for a longer period of time than previously thought,”” said Bitter. “”This is especially exciting because we have one more week of science.””

    According to the Oct. 21 press release by the Phoenix Mars Mission, engineers and scientists will use the robotic arm on the craft to push a soil sample in a funnel for a cell analysis. Images of the soil will also be taken by the Optical Microscope and the lander’s Robotic Arm Camera will take a digital-elevation model of a rock called “”Sandman.””

    The activities performed by the Phoenix Mars Lander are selected daily by the team here on Earth based on the relay of messages sent during the week. As the mission begins to conclude, the team will move into a three-day-work-week, only sending up messages to the Phoenix on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, Bitter said.

    Phoenix scientists said that the mission has been a complete success in gathering all the data that was needed, even going above and beyond expectations.

    “”Things are performing very nicely,”” said Bitter. “”It’s like needing a 90 percent to get an A, and you end up getting a 100 percent.””

    The Lander has worked well beyond its life expectancy in the past month and has received two prestigious awards. Popular Mechanics presented the project with the Breakthrough Award, which is given to innovators who improve lives and expand possibilities in science, technology, engineering and exploration.

    The second award garnered was the 2008 Astronautics Engineer Award. The award is given to scientists and engineers whose contributions have furthered the understanding of rocket science and astronautics, according to the NASA Web site.

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