NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) took this picture of the Phoenix Lander gliding to the surface of Mars while it orbited overhead.

The Lander will soon be testing its robotic arm; first by unlatching its wrist and then flexing its elbow. This is critical to the success of the mission as the arm will be scooping soil samples of ice for analysis.Phoenix landing

 Image: NASA/ JPL/ Caltech/ Univ of Arizona











This image shows the Phoenix craft parachute during its descent on May. It landed near the Heimdall crater at at distance of 12 miles in front of the crater. NASA is using both the MRO and another vehicle orbiting Mars, Odyssey, to communicate with the Phoenix Lander. Commands have been sent for the Lander to take pictures of the area around it and to begin to move its robotic arm.

During the next three months, the arm will dig in the soil near the lander and scoop samples of soil and ice to instruments on the lander deck. Following the commands this morning, its movements will begin with unlatching the wrist, then moving the arm upwards in a stair-step manner. These movements are schedule for Wednesday, May 28.

Overall, the Lander team is quite pleased with the landing of the craft and the position where it is situated on the surface of Mars.

The image below was taken today and relayed with other information to the MRO this evening, which transmitted the image and data to earth from its orbit around Mars.

Lander image 052708


Ever wonder what the weather is like on Mars? You can find out by viewing this link which gives a narrative description of the Martian weather as well as a Quicktime movie of the planet. The movie shows a week of planetary rotation where clouds and dust storms can be seen on Mars.

Mars pic The movie is courtesy of the Mars Color Imager (MARCI) about the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) spacecraft.  This is a low-resolution camera that scans Mars as the MRO orbits the planet, producing a global map at a pixel resolution of 1 to 10 km. This map provides a daily weather snapshot on Mars, gathering data on seasonal and annual variations, and maps the existence of water vapor and ozone in the Martian atmosphere.

For example, the weather report for the week of May 12, 2008 through May 18, 2008 is as follows:

Martian weather this past week continued to be fairly typical for northern spring. Afternoon water ice clouds concentrated over the major shield volcanoes, in the equatorial region, and west of Argyre. While Hellas continued to be clear and relatively free of dust, another dust storm developed at the seasonal north polar cap edge north of Tempe and lofted a diffuse cloud of dust onto the perennial cap for several days. This storm occurred northeast of the Phoenix site, where Phoenix intends to land on May 25. Although the storm occurred somewhat near the landing site, it did not affect weather conditions at the site. The two MER rovers (at Gusev Crater and Meridiani Planum) continued to experience dust storm-free skies with some partial cloud (condensate) cover throughout the week. Some of these condensate clouds reached heights of 69-83 km altitude (mesosphere).

There is also a reference map provided so that you can pinpoint the location of the places named in the weather report.

Mars reference map









I find the Mars weather information interesting to compare with our weather on this planet. In place of rain or other precipitation, the active ingredient in Martian weather is dust.