Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Martian Invasion

As you may be aware, the Phoenix Lander arrived safely on Mars. NASA have the full CGI animation of the landing as astronomy picture of the day for 25 May.

What you may not be aware of is that the HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter caught a picture of it on the way down. And you can see the parachute. Or as the Planetary Society Blog titled the photo OMG!! Parachute!!!! Photo!!!!!.

Why should you pay attention? Bill Higgins puts it like this in a thread on Making Light:

The nations of the world have a fleet of vehicles exploring Mars.

In orbit: ESA's Mars Express. NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. NASA's Mars Odyssey.

On the ground: Spirit, near the equator. Opportunity, also near the equator on the opposite side of Mars. Now Phoenix, above the arctic circle.

Those on the ground can communicate with the orbiters, and regularly use them to relay data to Earth. Imaging from the orbiters is used to plan and understand where the rovers are going.

It's real exploration. On a very big planet, but it's a start.

It's worth repeating: This may not be the 21st Century we expected or wanted, but it damn well is the 21st Century and it's ours.
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