[FPSPACE] FW: U AZ: Orbiting HiRISE Camera Saw Phoenix Heat Shield in Freefall
ljk4 at msn.com
Thu Jul 10 00:04:12 EDT 2008
>From: "AAS Press Officer Dr. Steve Maran" <steve.maran at aas.org>
>To: "Steve Maran" <steve.maran at aas.org>
>Subject: U AZ: Orbiting HiRISE Camera Saw Phoenix Heat Shield in Freefall
>Date: Wed, 9 Jul 2008 23:03:39 -0400
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THE FOLLOWING RELEASE WAS RECEIVED FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA, IN
TUCSON, AND IS FORWARDED FOR YOUR INFORMATION. (FORWARDING DOES NOT
IMPLY ENDORSEMENT BY THE AMERICAN ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY.) Steve Maran,
American Astronomical Society steve.maran at aas.org 1-202-328-2010
July 9, 2008
lstiles at u.arizona.edu
Orbiting HiRISE Camera Saw Phoenix Heat Shield in Freefall
Scientists running the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment, known as
HiRISE, on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter have processed more details in
amazing image their camera captured as the Phoenix spacecraft descended
Mars' atmosphere during its landing on May 25, 2008.
New analysis has turned up what likely is Phoenix's heat shield falling
Mars' surface, they conclude.
HiRISE, run from The University of Arizona, made history by taking the first
image of a spacecraft as it descended toward the surface of another
The image shows NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander, also run from the UA, when the
spacecraft was still tucked inside its aeroshell, suspended from its
at 4:36 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time on landing day. Although Phoenix appears
be descending into an impressive impact crater, it actually landed 20
kilometers, or 12 miles, away.
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter was about 760 kilometers, or 475 miles, away
pointed the HiRISE camera obliquely toward the descending Phoenix lander.
camera viewed through the hazy Martian atmosphere at an angle 26 degrees
the horizon when it took the image. The 10-meter, or 30-foot, wide parachute
was fully inflated. Even the lines connecting the parachute and aeroshell
visible, appearing bright against the darker, but fully illuminated Martian
In further analyzing the image, the HiRISE team, supported by personnel from
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co.,
discovered a small, dark dot located below the lander.
Phoenix was equipped with a heat shield that protected the lander from
up when it entered Mars' atmosphere and quickly decelerated because of
friction. Phoenix discarded its heat shield after it deployed its parachute.
"Given the timing of the image and of the release of the heat shield, as
the size and the darkness of the spot compared to any other dark spot in the
vicinity, we conclude that HiRISE also captured Phoenix's heat shield in
freefall," said HiRISE principal investigator Alfred McEwen of the UA's
and Planetary Laboratory.
The multigigabyte HiRISE image also includes a portion recorded by red,
blue-green and infrared detectors, and scientists have processed that color
part of the image.
HiRISE's color bands missed the Phoenix spacecraft but do show frost or ice
the bowl of the relatively recent, 10-kilometer (6-mile) wide impact crater
unofficially called "Heimdall." The frost shows up as blue in the
HiRISE data, and is visible on the right wall within the crater.
The HiRISE camera doesn't distinguish between carbon dioxide frost and water
frost, but another instrument called CRISM on the Mars Reconnaissance
The new details and color in the Phoenix descent image can be found on the
HiRISE Web site, http://hirise.lpl.arizona.edu.
The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter mission is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion
Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., for NASA?s Science Mission Directorate.
Lockheed Martin Space Systems is the prime contractor for the project and
the spacecraft. The University of Arizona operates HiRISE, which was built
Ball Aerospace and Technology Corp.
HiRISE - http://hirise.lpl.arizona.edu
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter - http://www.nasa.gov/mro
Alfred McEwen (1-520-621-4573; mcewen at lpl.arizona.edu)
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Maran, AAS Press Officer steve.maran at aas.org Telephone
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