Phoenix Loenx

By Phil Plait | May 27, 2008 8:55 am

I have a sneaky suspicion that I will never be able to keep up with the Mars Phoenix mission and still be able to write about it when something special happens, so if you need your fix of the latest and greatest, here are some places to go:

NASA’s page, of course.

The Arizona Phoenix page has lots of great background info.

Emily’s blog at The Planetary Society.

Chris Lintott has been keeping tabs, and has videos of interviews with scientists on the Phoenix mission.

You never know what the HiRIse team will have.

AstroProf has a nice post explaining what a "sol" is. Harkens back to my own post about the length of the year, actually.

Universe Today will always have article, of course, too!

Know any more? Leave ’em in the comments! You can use HTML to make the links, but it might get snagged by the spam filter. I check that pretty often, so don’t fret if it gets swept up.


Comments (27)

  1. J_w23

    ESA said their Mars Express HRSC would image the phoenix probe’s fireball during entry; but I never expected that the guys from HiRISE got phoenix dangling on its parachute!
    Thanks Phil for the websites, I’m sure lots of cool stuff is coming up!

  2. Michael Lonergan

    Hi Phil. This is off Phoenix topic, but not sure where to post. You mentioned the other day about the guy jumping from a balloon. His balloon failed this morning and floated away without him over Saskatchewan. It looked like a giant sperm floating up to the sky. Kind of surreal.

    Phoenix images are way cool! The conspiracy nuts are at it already though!

  3. Timothy Reed

    If you’re new to the HiRISE site, click on the “HiBlog” button on the top bar for the latest-breaking news. The main page “new images” update approximately weekly. (For instance, HiRISE’s image of the Phoenix descent is on HiBlog, but not on the main page even though the main page changed today.)

  4. I love your headline. It reminds me of a cognitive psych professor I had in undergrad who wrote “ghoti” on the chalkboard. He asked people to pronounce it, and of course nobody could get what he was after. He announce that it was pronounced “fish”, which thoroughly puzzled everyone. He explained the gh is an f sound, as in “laugh”, the o was the ih sound as in “women”, and the ti was the sh sound as in “motion”.

    I then came up with the bumper sticker, “I’d rather be ghotiing”.

  5. You also can follow MarsPhoenix on Twitter, lots of updates from someone at JPL writing from the perspective of the lander itself.

  6. Damon B.

    I have an OT comment, or a request for opinions, really:

    I heard one of the mission scientists on NPR the other day talking about the landing, and he used the “golf ball” analogy, i.e., “Getting the Phoenix to land where we wanted it on Mars is like us hitting a golf ball from a tee in Los Angeles, having it fly 10000 miles across the Pacific, and getting a hole in one in Sydney.” (Paraphrased.)

    I’ve heard this golf reference before when talking about similar landings or planetary orbits.

    It seems to me that while one shouldn’t by any means undercut the accomplishment of getting Phoenix to land where they wanted it, this is a horrible analogy–getting a hole in one in golf relies on an extraordinary amount of luck, regardless of the skill of the player, and even Phil has strongly emphasized how they left nothing to chance, after the problem with the Polar Lander.

    Of course, getting Phoenix to Mars is *nothing* like hitting a golf ball. You hit a golf ball, and it just goes–you don’t monitor its trajectory and track its flight details, adjust its path, account for variables, etc.

    Using this sort of golf analogy, to me, might imply to someone that didn’t know better, that JPL relied much on luck, and not necessarily the skill/experience of the mission staff and engineers.

    Or am I just being overly-sensitive?

  7. Timothy Reed

    Image on the Phoenix website of (undoubtedly) parachute/backshell on the surface of Mars as imaged by Phoenix.

  8. Jim

    Thanks Phil. I’m sure the Wikipedia entry will be kept up to date too.

  9. Celtic_Evolution

    Damon B.

    I think the oft-used golf shot analogy is meant to convey a degree of difficulty and precision… and the skillset needed to accomplish the feat. Don’t take it too literally.

    Think of it this way… imagine that you actually possessed a club and a ball capable of generating the necessary force and speed required to complete a journey, in flight, from LA to Australia. Now imagine having the skillset (and yes, technology) required to be able to judge windspeed, terrain, trajectory, appropriate force of the swing and all the other variables that would go in to making that golfball land in the cup in Australia… that is the comparison here. And I think it’s fairly apt. I have no problem with it, but I can see where some might disagree and consider it a complete apples to oranges comparison. I can see that side of the argument as well.

  10. Celtic_Evolution

    Let me expand upon my last post by saying that one should also remember who the intended target audience is for such an analogy.

    I don’t have a huge problem using the “golf-shot” analogy to convey degree of difficulty to the general public that may or may not have a full understanding of exactly what is required to achieve such a landing as Phoenix did.

    However, I would expect that one would not use that same analogy while addressing a group of learned scientists or enthusiasts who already have a pretty good idea of the precision and complexity that is involced in such a landing. Or a large percentage of this blog community, for example. :)

  11. We’re following the Phoenix events over at the Martian Chronicles, and offering our insights as planetary astronomers/geologists. Check it out!

  12. Charles

    offtopic, but today is

    Manhattanhenge — where sunset will align with the street grid in Manhattan.

    I thought of it because I saw Dr. Neil Tyson on TV this morning and I believe it was he that coined the phrase.

  13. The Lander has a Twitter feed!
    I think it’s a human doing it for the probe, but it’s fascinating.

  14. themadlolscientist

    =ROFL= Space jumper’s balloon leaves without him….anyone else seeing the scene from Wizard of Oz?

    About that golf analogy: Immediately after the guy said it, another guy jumped in and said, “And the hole is moving.” I died LOLing.

  15. 01101001

    JPL Phoenix Mission News

    News, a link farm of its own, images, video, upcoming events

  16. The (red) sidebar of The Cosmic Mirror #315 has all the sources I’ve been using during EDL night. Some turned out to be duds (NASA’s own blog simply stopped before landing, and they are still “awaiting the arrival”!), others were total surprises and added in the last moment, e.g. those cellphone webcasts by a congressman inside mission control, still others suddenly went off the air when things got interesting (such as poor Emily whose Planetary Society site was hit by a denial-of-service attack). Overall this was the interplanetary adventure where one had by far the most choice of sources – even being 9 timezones away!

  17. johnny0

    Some numbers to use against those complaining about the cost of NASA, or “we should use the money here”:

    – stop watching pro sports and we pay for most of NASA.
    – space exploration costs about the same as the player payroll of the NHL + NBA.
    – the Yankees, Mets and Tigers payroll at $481m is more than the $420m Mars Phoenix Budget…

    Here are some numbers:

    $6.7 billion: NFL Total Revenue
    $6.1 billion: MLB Total Revenue
    $4.7 billion: NASA Science Budget
    $3.9 billion: NFL Player Payroll
    $3.4 billion: NBA Total Revenue
    $3.3 billion: NASA Space Shuttle Budget
    $3.1 billion: NASA Space Exploration Budget
    $2.7 billion: MLB Player Payroll
    $2.3 billion: NHL Total Revenue
    $1.9 billion: NBA Player Payroll
    $1.8 billion: Int’l Space Station Budget
    $1.2 billion: NHL Player Payroll

    2008 NASA Budget:
    MLB Team Payroll:
    Pro Sports Budgets:

  18. johnny0

    Whoops, the pro sports budget URL got clipped:

  19. Timothy Reed

    “If you’re new to the HiRISE site, click on the “HiBlog” button on the top bar for the latest-breaking news. The main page “new images” update approximately weekly. (For instance, HiRISE’s image of the Phoenix descent is on HiBlog, but not on the main page even though the main page changed today.)”

    I have to eat my words. Within the hour, the HiRISE site has been updated to feature images of Phoenix on the surface (although as of this writing, some of the links to subimages did not work correctly).

    HiBlog also contains the AMAZING photo (which Emily Lakdawalla also has on her blog) of the context of the parachute image … the descending Phoenix framed in by the huge Heimdall crater.

    Care to revise your choice of BEST IMAGE EVER, Phil?

  20. Grizzly

    The Planetary Blog has the shot with context. DOUBLE WOW.

    And HiRISE now has a shot of the landing site showing parachute with aeroshell, lander and heat shield.

  21. A detailled update on Phoenix’ status – and communications problems! – can be found here, by the way. Plus tons of links, as I said …

  22. Stuart at Cumbrian Sky is a Mars junkie, and can always be relied upon to have the latest news.

  23. MaDeR

    They make history – NOW. Some of these photos will be in books about exploration of cosmos – forever.

  24. richard

    I’ve looked everywhere for a download/podcast of the Phoenix press briefings I missed on live NASA TV. Can’t find any! There are zillions of podcasts of animations and stuff, but the most easily produced and most valuable podcasts seem to be absent.

    Anyone know where they can be found?


  25. Why the name phoenix ?Would any one please tell me ?

  26. Jordi ST is a great forum, not only for Phoenix, but for all the other, well, unmanned missions (MER, Messenger, etc.):


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