Mars Phoenix Lander On Wide World Of Mars

When I was a kid growing up in the 1960's, one of the most amazing things to me was the live coverage from multiple cameras of world events, like the Winter Olympics. When they talked about "spanning the globe" to bring you a "Wide World of Sports," they weren't kidding around.


(Phoenix lander schematic)

NASA's Phoenix Lander is going to get a similar treatment from the many correspondents on Mars. Correspondents on Mars? That's right - the three orbiters, NASA's Mars Odyssey, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and Europe's Mars Express are all getting themselves into position.

Even better, NASA rovers Spirit and Opportunity have been helping out by simulating transmissions from Phoenix to rehearse the orbiters' operations.

Phoenix will enter the Martian atmosphere at a speed of 20,519 kph.

On that day, Odyssey will turn its robotic eyes from the heavens to point an ultrahigh- frequency antenna towards the descending Phoenix. A high-gain antenna will stream information back to Earth as Odyssey watches Phoenix slow itself through heat-shield friction, a parachute, and then firing descent rockets. That allows the lander to hit the Martian surface on three legs at just 5.4 miles per hour (2.4 m/s).

MRO and Mars Express will start recording Phoenix transmissions as backup data "about 10 minutes before landing," according to Ben Jai, mission manager at JPL for MRO.

Sooner or later, the world's planetary explorers will realize that we need a rock-solid, high-capacity data network for the solar system. George O. Smith, an engineer by trade and sf writer by avocation, wrote about this idea in an excellent set of stories in the early 1940's.

The Venus Equilateral Relay Station was a modern miracle of engineering if you liked to believe the books. Actually, Venus Equilateral was an asteroid that had been shoved into its orbit about the Sun, forming a practical demonstration of he equilateral triangle solution of the Three Moving Bodies. It was a long cylinder, about three miles in length by about a mile in diameter...

This was the center of Interplanetary Communications. This was the main office. It was the heart of the Solar System's communication line, and as such, it was well manned. Orders for everything emanated from Venus Equilateral.
(Read more about the Venus Equilateral Relay Station)

Update 14-Jun-1986 Here's an earlier reference to this idea; take a look at the Interplanetary Radiograph Station from On The Martian Way (1907) by Harry Gore Bishop. End update.

Via Mars Orbiters Prepare to Watch Phoenix Landing.

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