I just got home from my local natural science museum’s efforts to bring NASA’s Phoenix probe landing into the public. It was a success – both the museum’s agenda for the evening and the good news that Phoenix is in good health and operating nominally from Mars.
The Museum had Dr. Steve Lee, Curator of Planetary Science at the museum and a Research Scientist at the Space Science Institute present a mission overview. Kris Walsh, Director of NASA and Commercial Programs for Delta Launch Vehicles, United Launch Alliance, followed by talking about the Delta II launch system. Tim Halbrook finished the first part of the evening (prior to landing). He is a Senior Engineer, Remote Sensing & Exploration Systems at Lockheed Martin. Mr. Halbrook has been involved with every U.S. mission to Mars over the past 20 years.
The landing activities at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory were broadcast over NASA TV and shown in multiple locations within the museum. Just as the coverage of Spirit and Opportunity, the two rovers that landed in January 2004, the coverage of Phoenix was very thrilling to experience. A lot of hard work went into ensuring a success and this team very nearly pulled off a perfect landing. Every aspect was well within operational ranges. The planning and practice paid off as no last second corrections or adaptations had to be exercised. Relief and excitement were evident from the team as each stage of the EDL (Entry, Descent, Landing) was checked off.