Phoenix To Land On Mars

Emily Lakdawalla (don’t you love the name?) promises to have much to report on the landing this Sunday of the Phoenix on Mars. If you’re watching on NASA TV, coverage begins at 6:00 PM EDT, major events start happening at about 7:40 PM (EDT) with the spacecraft entering the Martian atmosphere and touchdown less than 15 minutes later, assuming all goes well.

The operational status of the Phoenix should be known by 9:30 PM, EDT, and you can assume mission planners and engineers will be holding their collective breaths for at least that long. The detailed schedule can be found here.

The Big Deal TM about this mission is that it will be the first to land near the Martian (north) pole, where the water is expected to be accessible. From the mission overview:

Phoenix will be the first mission to return data from either polar region providing an important contribution to the overall Mars science strategy “Follow the Water” and will be instrumental in achieving the four science goals of NASA’s long-term Mars Exploration Program.

It’s all about the water.

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