The Robinson Family Aerospace Mission is celebrating the Phoenix Mars Lander’s 10th Anniversary on Mars. Since May 1, we have been posting new information and sharing content related to the Phoenix Mars Lander. We have also been actively tracking NASA’s new Martian mission InSight as part of our celebration. On the 15th Day of our celebration, we have to decided to post a reflection.
Day 1: We began Day 1 of our celebration by introducing the Phoenix Mars Lander. The Phoenix Mars Lander was a stepping stone for NASA. Led by Principal Investigator Peter H. Smith of the University of Arizona, managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and developed by Lockheed Martin Space Systems, the Phoenix was the crossing of academia, government and industry. The Phoenix Mars Lander played a pivotal role in the future of Martian exploration. Its success as the first mission to land on the North Pole of Mars has created a pathway of opportunity for Martian missions such as the Curiosity Rover and its sister mission, Insight.
Day 2: 140 Students. Visions of Mars. A Legacy. Day 2 featured the story of the Phoenix Kids, a group of 140 Washington Elementary School students whose names were submitted aboard the Phoenix Mars Lander. With the help of former Principal Dr. Walker and her staff, the names of the students were sent onboard the Phoenix via The Planetary Society’s website. Through the Phoenix, the students were molded in science, technology, engineering and mathematics from elementary school through high school.
Day 3: COUNTDOWN TO LAUNCH! Day 3 focused on the then approaching launch of the InSight Mars Lander. InSight, which is short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, is a Martian mission set to analyze the crust, mantle and core of Mars. InSight will be the first of any Martian mission to give the planet its first in-depth ‘checkup’ since its formation 4.5 billion years ago. InSight has two mission objectives: (1) investigating the formation and evolution of Mars and (2) determining the tectonic activity of Mars and the rate of meteorite impacts.
Day 4: FIRST CUBESAT. Day 4 revealed the Mars Cube One twin nanospacecrafts which launched with the InSight Mars Lander. Designed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the MarCO twins serve as a test for new miniaturized technology for deep space communication. The briefcase-sized spacecrafts were designed to transmit and relay InSight’s activity as the mission heads towards the Red Planet.
Day 5: LIFTOFF! Day 5 reported the launch of the InSight Mars Lander. At 4:05 a.m. PT/7:05 a.m. ET, InSight blasted off the launch pad of Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. InSight’s launch from the Golden State made history as the first interplanetary mission to launch from the West Coast. InSight is expected to land at Elysium Planitia, a flat plain north of Mars’s equator, where it will study the interior of Mars, giving the terrestrial planet its first thorough check up since its formation. With new technology, InSight will probe Mars’s core, mantle and crust in order to uncover the origins of our solar system.
Day 6: The Rise of the Phoenix. Day 6 reminisced on the launch of the Phoenix Mars Lander, in light of InSight’s launch. August 4, 2007, the Phoenix Mars Lander launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, escorted by a Boeing Delta II rocket. Phoenix’s launch was a huge success for the University of Arizona, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Lockheed Martin Space Systems and international contributors. The Phoenix Mars Lander’s Principal Investigator Peter Smith described the launch as “the most beautiful thing I’ve seen.”
Day 7: Day 7 we announced the beginning of our Art Showcase. Beginning May 7 through May 31, the Robinson Family Aerospace Mission will be featuring Mars related poetry, music, artwork and more as part of our May celebration. All features will be posted throughout the month of May via our website and social media sites.
Day 8: AN EDL SYSTEM. AN ICE CREAM CONE SHAPED AEROSHELL. THE THIN ATMOSPHERE OF MARS. Day 8 highlighted the entry, descent and landing (EDL) system of the Phoenix Mars Lander. NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander was configured with an EDL system designed to decelerate the Martian mission. The EDL system had to curb the lander in order for Phoenix to enter the thin atmosphere of Mars.
Day 9: POLAR CAPS. CARBON DIOXIDE ICE. THE GREEN VALLEY. Day 9 compared and contrasted the polar regions of Mars and Earth. Some describe Mars as a sister planet to Earth. Like Earth, Mars has Northern and Southern polar regions consisting of water ice. Mars also has carbon dioxide ice within its polar caps, which makes it uniquely distinct from Earth. The repetition of the freezing and thawing on Mars ultimately formed polygon-patterned marks on the soil. These polygon shaped patterns are similar to the polygon structures on Earth’s polar regions.
Day 10: THE ROBOTIC ARM THAT UNCOVERED WATER ICE ON MARS. Day 10 featured the Phoenix Mars Lander’s Robotic Arm. The development of the Phoenix Mars Lander’s Robotic Arm (RA) was a collaborative effort between NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Alliance Spacesystems and Honeybee Robotics. Dr. Robert Bonitz of JPL oversaw the development of the RA’s control avionics, flight software, biobarrier and integration and testing. Alliance Spacesystems was responsible for the design of the arm; while, Honeybee Robotics built the scoop of the arm.
Day 11: “WE HAVE WATER.” Day 11 reflected on the discoveries of the Phoenix Mars Lander. May 31, 2008, the Phoenix Mars Lander began its surface mission by excavating Martian soil. Its Robotic Arm dug through Mars’s subsurface, sampling and testing its soil for its chemical compositions and more. Initially, the samples collected by Phoenix were foiled due to the soil being stuck inside the Robotic Arm’s scoop, but the Robotic Arm Camera later uncovered that the lander discovered water ice on Mars.
Day 12: An update. Day 12 tracked the progress of the InSight Mars Lander. May 5, 2018, the InSight Mars Lander began its journey to Mars atop an Atlas V rocket. Launching from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, InSight embarked on its 301 million mile mission to Mars. Currently, InSight is in its cruise phase, tucked away in a protective aeroshell. As it cruises, InSight will be fine-tuning its path as it prepares to enter the Martian atmosphere in approximately six months.
Day 13: RISING FROM THE ASHES. Day 13 defined the Phoenix Mars Lander. The Phoenix Mars Lander was the first mission chosen for NASA’s Scout program. The Martian lander was respectfully named after Phoenix, the resilient mythological bird of antiquity. Across many cultures, a Phoenix bird is symbolic of a renewal, hope, inspiration and life. The Phoenix mission represented a rebirth for the cancelled Mars Surveyor Lander of 2001 and the lost Mars Polar Lander.
Day 14: “BOTH MARCO-A AND B SAY ‘POLO!’” Day 14 tracked the MarCO CubeSats. Though the MarCo CubeSats launched with InSight, the twin briefcase-sized spacecrafts have mission objectives of their own. Being miniature spacecrafts, the CubeSats serve as a test for scientists to see how well smaller spacecrafts operate in space. By all accounts, the miniature spacecrafts are performing well and have been successfully communicating with scientists.