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HiRISE Does It Again; Captures Phoenix On Mars’ Surface


The HiRISE Camera Imaging Team for the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter keeps outdoing themselves. First, they imaged Mars’ surface in such fine detail to help choose a safe yet interesting landing site for Phoenix. Then they beat the odds and actually captured Phoenix during its descent to Mars surface, which is completely incredible. And now, in very short order they’ve located and imaged Phoenix and all its accoutrements sitting on Mars north polar region. The parachute (lower left) is easy to identify because it is especially bright and the backshell is still attached to the parachute cords. The double dark marking at right is consistent with disturbance of the ground from impact and bouncing of the heat shield, which fell from a height of about 10 kilometers. The last object (upper left) is the Phoenix Lander whose two solar panels on either side of the lander are clearly visible.

To give you a sense of scale of what you’re seeing, the solar panels are about 5.5 meters (about 18 feet) across, and about 22 pixels in this image. The parachute and lander are about 300 meters, roughly 1,000 feet, apart. All seen and imaged by MRO from orbit. Amazing.

I love HiRISE.

In other Phoenix news, the commands to activate the robotic arm will be sent Wednesday morning via communications with, appropriately enough, MRO.

See below for close-ups and the entire image without the inserts.

All these images were acquired about 22 hours after Phoenix landed at about 3:00PM local time on the surface. The rest of the HiRISE observation shows a cloud free day for Phoenix Lander operations.

Close up of the Phoenix lander.

Parachute and backshell.

Source: HiRISE

About 

Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also works with Astronomy Cast, and is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • greg your last name May 27, 2008, 2:22 PM

    incredibly awesome!

  • Molecular May 27, 2008, 2:32 PM

    Simply amazing!!!

  • Chris May 27, 2008, 2:43 PM

    Incredible, what a fleet were ammasing at mars!

  • James Purtle May 27, 2008, 2:47 PM

    Nice pic. If HiRISE can see this on Mars, what is the latest status of a satellite around the moon which can/could confirm the location of the Apollo modules?

  • Nancy Atkinson May 27, 2008, 2:57 PM

    LRO, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter’s launch has been pushed back to no earlier than November 24, 2008, but some sources at NASA say it might be even early 2009. It’s assembly has not yet been completed and it has to pass a few pre-launch test milestones. We’ll keep you posted here at UT!

  • Peter K May 27, 2008, 3:20 PM

    Looks like the retro rockets disturbed the surface a bit – I wonder how far they will have to go down to reach undisturbed ground.

    Whilst they surely thought of this, it does make one wish slightly for a bit of mobility. – and what if there’s something like a crack that looks promising but is out of reach?

  • Astrofiend May 27, 2008, 4:13 PM

    # Peter K Says:
    May 27th, 2008 at 3:20 pm

    “Looks like the retro rockets disturbed the surface a bit – I wonder how far they will have to go down to reach undisturbed ground.

    Whilst they surely thought of this, it does make one wish slightly for a bit of mobility. – and what if there’s something like a crack that looks promising but is out of reach?”

    Yeah – It would have been nice if they were able to have bunged a few wheels on the thing just to provide perhaps up to 50m of lateral movement or so, just to get it out of the blast area from the retro rockets. But that’s being picky I suppose.

  • Dave May 27, 2008, 4:31 PM

    WOW

  • Jorge May 27, 2008, 4:41 PM

    What if there’s something like a crack that looks promising but is out of reach?

    Simple: it’s out of reach.

    You know what I’d like to see? A whole fleet of Spirit and Opportunity clones, scattered all around Mars. They could be built by a fraction of the cost of a totally new mission, since there would be no new hardware development needed (we know how reliable the hardware is), which means that they could be sent to more risky places, instead of just your customary flatland. If they come up with just a fraction of the information the two robotic heros dug up, so to speak, they’d be fabulous all the same.

    Anyway, Phenix has a totally different approach, following the footsteps layed out by VIking, only a lot more sophisticated. Each kind of mission has its own pluses and minuses, and perhaps the biggest shortcoming of this one is being static. On the other hand, it can do a lot of things small rovers cannot.

  • JoAnn Chabot May 28, 2008, 12:07 PM

    Yes….Yes!! Keep em coming. This is just wonderful!!

  • Nicholos Wethington May 28, 2008, 7:43 AM

    Absolutely fantastic! We are such an amazing species when we try to accomplish things like this.

  • robbb May 28, 2008, 9:28 PM

    pretty amazing. Definitely enjoying these shots.

  • alphonso richardson May 30, 2008, 12:21 AM

    Brilliant picture. I wonder if they’ll get any shots of other probes.
    Maybe they’ll even find where Beagle 2 ended up? ( Yeah, right…………)

  • Rod June 21, 2008, 6:39 AM

    Like Jorge I’d love to see “A whole fleet of Spirit and Opportunity clones, scattered all around Mars.” I wonder what it would cost.

  • Mark McRude June 24, 2008, 2:49 AM

    Regarding a fleet of Oppurtunity and Spirit robots on the surface is a great idea!
    The cost of sending a Spirit type rover to the Phoenix landing site would be expensive only to the point of launch, I would think. Most of that would be off the shelf spare parts type equipment for the most part.

    Getting aproval might take a decade or two.

    What really blows me away is
    In the 1960’s we were launching rockets every six weeks (Apollo anyway) and got amazing things done in very short order – even after the huge disaster of Apollo one. 18 months later, we were on the Moon.

    Now that Russia, China, Japan, India and ESA are all looking (almost drooling) at the moon – MAYBE we can speed this process up and get going again!!!

    Wasted Thirty years……………… OUCH!

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