Monday, May 26, 2008

Phoenix on Mars

Another example of how we routinely receive news of extraordinary accomplishments in an almost "by the way" fashion. An excerpt from the National Geographic article:

At 7:53 p.m. ET Mission Control received the signal that the craft had survived the tricky descent through the red planet's atmosphere dubbed the seven minutes of terror.

During that time the probe had to slow itself from 12,700 miles (20,438 kilometers) an hour to 5 miles (8 kilometers) an hour before gently setting down on Martian permafrost.

Although friction and a parachute helped reduce its speed, Phoenix was designed to separate from the chute at about 0.6 mile (a kilometer) above Mars, relying on pulsing thrusters to smooth its final descent.

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