Sunday, June 1, 2008

The Whole World Is Watching: Part Deux

The Observer-Dispatch has more about the local connection with the Mars Phoenix Lander:

More than a quarter of a million dollars and a year after completion, Custom Tool & Model Corp. celebrated the success of NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander Mission.

At a Friday news conference and reception for employees, John Piseck announced the success of Sunday’s mission thus far, and explained that several parts of the Lander were made in the village.

“The major part was the scoop,” he said, “which will be taking soil and ice samples from the planet’s surface for testing. Once I saw that arm move, I was so happy to see it in action.”

Since my posting about CTM early Thursday, and the O-D's story later that day, the lander has already made history:

It was the exhaust from the lander's twelve retrorockets - firing during the last few seconds of the spacecraft's touchdown last Sunday - that blew a mere 3 to 6 inches of Martian topsoil away and uncovered the patch of ice near one of the lander's three legs. The camera on the lander's robotic arm snapped images of the flat, gleaming slab.

Spacecraft flying in orbit high above the planet carry sensitive radar instruments that can probe as much as a yard or so beneath the Martian surface, and their signals have already indicated a broad layer of what Earth-bound scientists believe is buried ice in the planet's frigid far northern region where Phoenix was sent to explore.

But now, for the first time ever, Phoenix has apparently found it.