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May 26, 2008

MRO shoots Phoenix under the silk

Posted: 02:08 PM ET

Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured an image of Phoenix plummeting to the Martian surface with its parachute deployed.

"This is an engineer's delight," says Project Manager Barry Goldstein.

Very cool shot.

- Correspondent Miles O'Brien, CNN Science & Technology

Filed under: Mars • NASA • Space

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Robert Stevens   May 26th, 2008 2:57 pm ET

Way cool.

Hey Miles, what did you think of the Phoenix EDL Recap Intercut with Animation that opened last night's news conference? The mission went so perfectly that real video could be synced to animated video. Outstanding,

Dale   May 26th, 2008 3:10 pm ET

Does anyone really believe that we sent something all the way to Mars? It's a government scam, people.

humusbcool   May 26th, 2008 4:45 pm ET

One thing is for certain, if mankind can't escape this planet we are doomed to extinction. This is just one small milestone on our way to the stars.

jws   May 26th, 2008 5:09 pm ET

it was my understanding that this probe was to land on the icecap to look for lfe. did they miss the target ? the photos i saw didn't look like our poles. on the other hand, one of the photos showed what looked like a clear draingae ditch in the soil, although i considered the possibility of wind erosion. what do you say?

N. G. Kress   May 26th, 2008 5:09 pm ET

On CNN TV around 4:40PM ET, one of the newscasters remarked that some people were opposed to the Mars Phoenix probe because of "all that money left on Mars." My husband pointed out to me, when this same objection was made for sending men to the moon, "The money is left down here on earth; all that was left on the moon was a few dollars in pieces of metal, plastic, and rubber." So it is the same for other explorations in space; although some good arguments could be made to spend the money for better and more productive things, at this time. But one of the pluses of the space program is the advancement of technology miniaturization from which we all benefit down here on earth.

Raoul Lannoy   May 26th, 2008 5:44 pm ET

It is an extraordinary picture !!

I hope it gives engineers an idea how the parachute behaved!

It looks like it wasn't completely deployed.

Sylvia   May 26th, 2008 5:47 pm ET

A lot of people posting here are complaining that it didn't land on the polar ice cap or on a glacier. But my understanding was that NASA never intended to land on pure ice. They wanted to land on soil that has permafrost ice below the surface so they could study the interaction of ice and soil and also I'm guessing, because they want to study ice that has been protected from weathering and will be older and better preserved. That's why Phoenix can dig–to dig down to where the ice is and sample it from as deep as possible.

Ron Bennett   May 26th, 2008 7:06 pm ET

I got to admit that was a good landing for the rocket-men. However a lot of the past rocket-thrusting missions weren’t as successful even though Viking did that back in the early 70’s.

The phoenix can land with parachutes alone, it’s been proven. Don’t need rocket science for that. Sure it will take more than one chute; sure the vertical descent velocity would still be great enough at impact to destroy the Lander even with more than one Parachute. They use more than one parachute to land all kinds of things on Earth. All it would take is just a little force to accelerate it skywards up an attached tether-line if bungee cords were used to conserve some of its kinetic energy therefore there will be less inertia to overcome… .

Parachutes are very safe way to land on Mars for Landers and robots with the right enhanced equipment you can control it much easier than retro-rockets and it is much safer… See

Barkbeetle   May 26th, 2008 7:33 pm ET

Great coverage on the landing yesterday! However Miles and other reporters, please stop using the inaccurate word "tundra" for the frozen Martian surface. As you know, tundra is a major biome here on Earth that is teeming with plant and animal life. It is the delicate richness of the arctic tundra that is at the heart of the ANWR dispute. I fear that some viewers looking at the apparently barren surface of Mars will associate that image with the real thing. Perhaps this will sound nitpicky, but I believe science reporting should be accurate and not leave confused impressions. Thanks for listening.

Space Enthusiast   May 26th, 2008 9:48 pm ET

great science and knowledge gain, but rather then figure out how to establish our dna on another planet after our extinction here on earth, lets take these scientist, engineers, and dollars and figure out how to prevent our own planets demise, let set a new goal:"We will eliminate the need fto burn fossil fuels within a decade". Surely if our scientist can land men on the moon, and capture a picture of a lander falling from the sky 4oo million miles away" we can eliminate our dependancy on oil, coal and other fossil fuels.

Engeldingle   May 26th, 2008 10:34 pm ET

Excellent coverage of a very historic event! We were all on pins and needles! Wow!
Lets hope that they find signs of "life" so we humans can be put into real perspective and realize that we are not alone and that evolutionary forces are universal! Oh boy would any discover of the building blocks of life finally close the door right in the face of Creationist Dogma and the Flat Earth Society once and for all!

Hedtke Institute   May 26th, 2008 10:51 pm ET

Concerning the pictures related to the recent Mars mission, what are we to believe we are seeing? The sole image that directs our attention to the horizon with polygons as far as the eye can see, interestingly fails to show the edge of the planet and the planet's arc outlined by space. The bigger question asks why NASA has edited out this part of the image? Are you viewers so ignorant, to expect to not to see anything at the edge of the planet?

Patrick, Orlando FL   May 27th, 2008 2:19 am ET

Kudos to NASA, JPL, Lockheed, U of A Tucson, and all those involved in this mission. Just getting that thing on the ground was an enormous challenge. Getting it in the right spot was outstanding. You guys make us proud.

Chief Martian   May 27th, 2008 3:04 am ET

The objective of Phoenix is to look for water, not life. Viking in 1976 showed that it is very hard to detect life and the Mars program strategy is to take a step by step approach to finding water and then when we understand where it is to see if we can detect signs of current or past life. On earth, anywhere there is water there is life and it is hoped that the same could apply to Mars. Water is the first objective because Viking showed in 1976 that the Mars surface is barren of life. The Mars Exploration Rovers have shown evidence that water once flowed on the surface, long ago. The Mars Odyssey Orbiter has detected signs of subsurface water near the poles and Phoenix is designed to detect that water. There is no water ice on the surface now (Martian summer) and in the winter the poles are covered with dry ice (frozen CO2). But the polygonal shapes of the dirt where Phoenix landed indicate that there is probably water fairly close to the surface and that is what the scoop and instruments on this spacecraft are looking for. The polygons like this on earth near the poles are caused by a freeze-thaw cycle of subsurface water so that is what gives the scientists hope that the same thing will apply on Mars.

And yes the mission is real. A lot of people have spent 5 years of their lives building and flying the spacecraft and their salaries are where the money went. Phoenix cost about the same as a couple of blockbuster movies, not enough to make a dent in curing cancer, for instance.

CB_Brooklyn   May 27th, 2008 6:42 am ET

I found two sites with analysis of NASA photos. The photos in the second link are quite bizarre. These photos come from NASA, the analysis does not!

Article: Phoenix Lander Images Already Censored By NASA?

Photo Collection: Mars Anomalies

David Proctor   May 27th, 2008 9:38 am ET

Great moment for the United States. With all the anti-intellectualism, materialism, and mindless entertainment that makes up too much of our popular culture, the Phoenix landing is a welcome break! Hooray for the idea of learning about the universe and the search for knowledge. Go NASA and JPL!!

Andrew Johnson   May 27th, 2008 10:50 am ET

Great picture.

For some interesting Rover photos, check or google martian fossils.

Barbicane   May 27th, 2008 11:05 am ET

Great job!
Worth every nickel!
Now need to support fully funding the Constellation program: Mono => Mars (@ pennies prer citizen), and cut Russsia out of the ferry business.

Don't worry: All the pet entitlement programs can be sustained.

Barbicane   May 27th, 2008 11:06 am ET

that's "Moon => Mars"


Hart, Emmanuel Handley   May 27th, 2008 11:09 am ET

I'm a Nigerian. I was delighted to watch such Phoenix trip to Mars. If sign of "life" is found, that means humans can evolve to a new era of life. Sorry for this question; Have the scientist consider the implication of such perilous task? Do they think it's possible to leave in Mars? According to the Bible; We were created on "Earth" to dominate all things and not some other planet.
Well, I'm elated for their sophiticated job. Bravo!

Craig   May 27th, 2008 11:21 am ET

Well done NASA, JPL, U of A, and all the rest. Very well done indeed.

Wally   May 27th, 2008 11:42 am ET

Now Mars has an Area 51. An awesome event.

Mike   May 27th, 2008 12:40 pm ET

"Can you really believe that we sent something all the way to Mars?" People who see government conspiracy under every rock & bush are what have made the USA what it is today...the greatest country on earth, going down the proverbial toilet. Sheesh!

Dave, East Aurora NY   May 27th, 2008 1:41 pm ET

It's amazing the comments from people who obviously did not follow this mission in any meaningful way until it happened to land successfully and then post something here, or the crowd who always feel anything having to do with space exploration is a waste of money better used elsewhere. I prefer to take the side of many who feel that first, the exploration of space, aside from advancing technology itself, helps us to understand our place in the universe and second, there is no guarantee that whatever resources are used for space exploration wouldn't simply be wasted on something else. Look at the money being spent on the Presidential elections, for heaven's sake, although I realize that Phoenix represents an expense of over 500 million dollars, with most of it charged to NASA. In the bigger scheme, I believe Phoenix used a reasonable amount of money (with other countries and private research facilities also providing some of the investment for instruments and so forth). Let's hope that this mission accomplishes most, if not all, it's objectives.

Antonii De Joya, TOMS RIVER, NEW JERSEY 08753   May 27th, 2008 2:06 pm ET

Hi Miles,

Curiosity sake only. The picture is black and white,why? where is Mars?( picture taken by the orbiter)during descent with the chute.
Also, with regards to orbiters MARS pictures being sent back to earth. I wonder why almost 100% of pictures taken were all smooth surfaces? is the orbiter camera cannot zoom in up to the surface -like the google earth?or the earth satellite that has 'eagle's eye?
is the orbiter not equipped with the most advance camera? like what we have with the hubble telescope? why NASA OR ESA do not provide us the detailed picture of MARS? are they tampering those pictures where are all seeing?
your reply will be much appreciated!!!
Thanks so much Miles -hope we can have some answer to these queries..


Joe Lalumia   May 27th, 2008 3:14 pm ET

Way to go NASA! Those rocket guys and girls sure know their STUFF! Landed virtually on target! in the planned landing zone.

Now to comment on the FLAT Earth folks posting here– please go to NASA's extensive web site and view the photos taken by the Mars Orbiter cameras- full color and black and white with VERY HIGH resolution. It's sort of mind boggling how folks can deny the landing happened. Don't you realize that the probe has been tracked all the way from Earth to Mars by radio telescopes all over the world..... and that the surface images originate DUH!--– from the surface - relayed through the Mars Orbiter. OR- do you also deny the factual science surrounding the transmission and receiving of "radio transmissions"? --– if you do deny this-- I suggest you remove your radio from your car– as the car radio is a GOVERNMENT conspiracy!

And my tax dollars actually SUPPORT educating these folks!

S Callahan   May 27th, 2008 3:15 pm ET

Out of curiosity i viewd CB of Brooklyn's photo collection regarding Mars Aomalies. To the common eye I would have to agree it appears there is mud or something like mud, as well as erosin on rocks,fossolized matter, and what appears to be formed structure (block form) . If that is so, this would suggest life in the past or even current. What is the harm in sharing that , if in fact that is the case? I find it fascinating and am just curious why the scientific world is not speaking more on this.

Antonii De Joya, TOMS RIVER, NEW JERSEY 08753   May 27th, 2008 3:28 pm ET

Why did the Phoenix landed on a surface as hard as our concrete road in here? to find water. etc..of all place in Mars why in a very hard surface? we shud have sent there an Excavator/heavy equipments if that is the case. are not after "life" or simply microbes or water – and why in north pole? when that place is so 'dry'? why not in the south pole region where ice is melting there and have larger potential water deposits? and why this equipment has no 'wheels'??? imagine that it will be sitting there for 3months? in one place?

odysseus   May 27th, 2008 4:04 pm ET

antonii, try going to marsunearthed. it is a dot com. tons of great photos, and better if you have/get 3D glasses. mars is a beautiful planet. check out some of the valleys, etc. sand dunes. ice formations. volcanos. you can order 3D glasses from that site I think for free.

babboxy   May 27th, 2008 4:26 pm ET

that's why I don't like blogs, because 90 percent of all comments are nonsense. some people clearly have no Idea what it's all about but they must leave their clutter all over the place. Anyway, nice stuff Nasa, can't wait for a picture of the skycrane putting MSL on the ground -))

Antonii De Joya, TOMS RIVER, NEW JERSEY 08753   May 27th, 2008 5:20 pm ET

I also wud like to share my views concerning life in another planets other than Mars,Venus,Saturn,Jupiter,Neptune and also in another galaxy as well..
Let us not be blinded by ignorance believing that Earth is the "only" habitable planet in the entire Universe. There are truly infinite numbers of galaxies out there – seen THOSE HUBBLE PICTURES?
It only tells us that planet earth is just one of the many planets in existence..and logically – we have to accept the fact that " we are not the only human in existence" so? it means that our way of thinking is still 'young' and unable to comprehend the truth out there...that ' there are 'really ' other great civilizations out there!!!

Sylvia   May 27th, 2008 5:37 pm ET

CB Brooklyn's photos come from NASA but she is giving them very strange interpretations. For example the one that shows 'a circle' on a rock as evidence for life, well that circle was caused by the Rover brushing it, so DUH, it's a sign of life all right–EARTH life. The photos with blue skies, c'mon, we all know these are 'false colour' images where they've tweaked the colours to bring out gradations of difference in the rock formations. They do that all the time, for totally legit scientific reasons, and they always tell you if it's 'false' or 'approximate true' colour. The little forms in the rocks, well, how often do you see a perfectly, totally smooth rock? If they formed in water they're likely to have been marked by ripples, they might have eroded by either water or wind or maybe the constant sandblasting of the Martian surface where dust is blown around all the time. Meteor impacts fragment rock and throw out all kinds of shapes and there's no reason why some of those couldn't be rough and wavy-shaped, while others might be oblong or have broken with relatively flat edges. Never seen flat rocks on earth? I guess it's harmless but I just don't understand why people feel the need to make up silly stories about these pictures when the real truth is so absolutely fascinating.

Steve   May 27th, 2008 5:43 pm ET

Beautiful. Great work guys! Keep it up.

s callahan   May 27th, 2008 5:54 pm ET

I agree Syliva, but the curiousty is peeked after seeing the photo's -though your explanation fits as well. Not being of sceientific mind, but certainly interested in exploration in the universe which my tax dollars pay for, I do try to keep an open mind. From a geological perspective though, wouldn't certain chemicals be necessary to form rock..and wouldn't those chemicals be indicative of some type of life? ? I really don't know, but do wonder.

P. Jay   May 27th, 2008 8:15 pm ET

I took a look at the NASA web site and find it interesting that the same two pictures side by side of the flag and dvd have a different color hue to them. Just an observation on the color questions.

Sylvia   May 27th, 2008 8:29 pm ET

Life is not needed in order for rocks to form. The rocks form naturally out of the elements that the planet is made of. Life might develop on that rocky planet, or it might not, but either way, the rocks would be there. Some of the rocks are formed by salts dissolved in water that are left behind when the water evaporates; but those salts were not created by life. Just natural chemical reactions. Some of the rock is volcanic. Again, volcanic eruptions are not caused by life forms and the lava that flows out and eventually hardens into rock has no connection to life. And so on. I know it's weird to think of an entire world, having volcanic eruptions, quakes, weather, and so forth, but no living things anywhere on it... but that's how our planet was too before life developed. Maybe there is life on Mars, or maybe there was once... or maybe not. Maybe Phoenix will help us find out.

s callahan   May 27th, 2008 9:06 pm ET

Well i sure appreciate your input Sylvia.

Similar interpretation realted to my faith..Though the Bible doesn't tell us how God created everything, it tells us he did. It also tells us there was light before the sun and moon ,stars(suggesting of course chemical or radioactive, or something else..type of iriclescense._ see Genesis 1:14-16. With that said, those in the faith understand is formed from dust...and life only comes from God's breath of life (why we turn back to dust upon death). I guess my point is..yes rocks aren't necessarly living things..furthering that thought..God specially told us of the water..of the expanse that separated water...My hope lies in eveidence of water in this journey to Mars.... As for light...I noticed in some pics it appears there is light..and I understand it's borrowing from the Greatest Scientist (God) this would suggest the possibity of some type of life on Mars.

mike   May 28th, 2008 7:37 am ET

Impressive how the orbitor was in the exact positio to get that shot at the right time. Some planning!

Gene   May 28th, 2008 7:56 am ET

babboxy – I tend to agree. It's helpful to keep in mind that 50% of the population is stupider than the other half. Which means there are at least 3.3 billion morons on the planet. It's inevitable that many of them will find their way on to the internet. On the other hand, the species needs somebody to collect the garbage, sweep the streets, etc. We can't all be rocket scientists.

JFWilder   May 28th, 2008 7:59 am ET

First, it is irresponsible of some of you idiots claiming this was staged or a hoax. We have enough computer power and power of sciece behind us to accomplish far more than this. Anyone claiming otherwise is likely still a Flat Earth Society member...or just plain ignorant of anything beyond a 2nd grade level of understanding.

Next...for those of you who spell "wud" for "would".....let's stop abbreviating and phonetically spelling everything so that one day our children can remember what proper English looks and sounds like. Technical advances should not be followed with de-evolution of speach.

Bravo for those who got this mission right, rather than the phoney staged "mission accomplished" that was purported by the kingdomof Bush about the first real "victory". This mission surviving despite republican savagery of the NASA program is a true miracle.

The Question   May 28th, 2008 10:59 am ET

The Flat Earth people? That’s hilarious! I love it!
Mission to Mars. Why is it a scam? Who would benefits by this “Scam”? All I know that there are blatant “scams” going on in our world today and nobody seems to care enough, or actually do anything about it. Why don’t we put all these scams by level of importance and act on them? Here I’ll give you one for free, “The Liberation of Iraq and their WMD’s”. Consistency is very important.
Take the money from NASA to better our world? What an old and boring argument. As a species, if our world conditions were really on our agenda we shouldn’t be crying nor complaining about NASA. We should redirect our concerns to our world governments, because it is clearly them who are responsible for the conditions that our planet is in, along with all of its inhabitants.
Phoenix mission not searching for life? Of course they are. Just check NASA’s website. It clearly states it as one of their many objectives.
If the Phoenix mission actually finds life in Mars it would be the equivalent of Man finally learning that the world does orbit the sun and not the other way around, that the world is round and not flat. If all goes well in the next few month’s things are going to be outstanding. These are really exciting times we are living in.
Free the flat earth people

Ron   May 28th, 2008 1:19 pm ET

We better put our money (and mind) where our mouth is...not to become another USSR.
Plus if NASA is so good in taking “pictures”, how about turning the expensive toys 180 degrees and taking a shot at Bin Laden's donkey, or finding alternative fuel, making our day.
Big deal, space program…spend our tax dollars to our enemies’ advantage.

Da Captain   May 28th, 2008 1:38 pm ET

JF Wilder

Budget records obtained from the Government Printing Office (GPO) support Daniels' claim. According to the documents, President Clinton initially increased the agency's funding by $259 million in 1993, but then cut $715 million from the agency his second year in office. He did not restore the largest portion of the money, $652 million, until three months before he left office in 2001. Clinton's cuts reduced NASA's budget by an aggregate total of $56 million over the course of his eight-year term.

George W. Bush has increased NASA's funding in each of his three submitted budgets since taking office. Those increases have totaled $1.216 billion. Bush's father, George H.W. Bush – who was president prior to Clinton – increased NASA expenditures by more than $3.437 billion during his single term from 1989 until January of 1993.

Aren't facts a pain... oh... and speech isn't spelled speach... (while you were correcting everyone)


S Callahan   May 28th, 2008 5:42 pm ET

Da Captain is very whitty...good laugh..thanks

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