back to article NASA's Phoenix closes on Red Planet

NASA has adjusted the flight path of its Phoenix Mars Lander, en route to a planned touch-down on the Red Planet on 25 May, on its mission to explore the body's Arctic plain. The agency has "conditionally approved" a roughly 62 mile by 12 mile (100km by 20km) "landing ellipse" in an area dubbed "Green Valley", which lies at …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Steve Hall


    ...No Space Lego image?

    Think you definately missed an opportunity to play with the little nobbly bricks on this one!

  2. TeeCee Gold badge


    You probably shouldn't describe its payload as an "arsenal", you'll make amanfromMars nervous.

  3. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    There's always a chance that we'll roll snake eyes

    So have they found ophidian life on mars or not? Enquiring minds want to know!

    (Mine's the one with the scales...)

  4. Rob Sked

    1 in 5 million chance

    . . . . of smacking a rock!!??

    God bless 'em for throwing caution to the wind.

  5. Luther Blissett

    Science vs history and gardening

    > it's two principal "bold objectives" to "study the history of water in the Martian arctic" and "search for evidence of a habitable zone and assess the biological potential of the ice-soil boundary".

    Where is the science, the inquiry, the formulation of hypotheses and their refutation open to scrutiny by every rational being? Or even the pre-scientific stumbling towards naiive inductions? Even with the dumbed down nu labour eduction system of 2008 one can find lots of 12 year olds have a better grip of scientific endeavour.

    So thanks Lester for telling us what all that is really about - history and gardening. What you didn't mention is how much it's costing. And whether that Titmarsh fellow is going to do the TV commentary.

  6. ChessGeek

    Not Exactly...

    It's not one chance in 5 million, it's 5 million chances in one landing area. As large as the area is, that's still not an insignificant risk.

    One chance in 5 million would be the odds of hitting any particular one of those rocks - not at all the same thing.

  7. Elmer Phud

    re 'not exactly' -- Discworld

    "It's a million to one chance, innit?"

    So five times more likely to totally wreck the whole lot in one go.

    Mine's the one with 'wizzard' on the back

  8. Waldo
    Thumb Up

    Martian snapped on ski run... Lander banned as no ski pass profered..

    Its life Jim JUST as we know it...

    Sorry ;-)

    couldn't resist...

  9. Plankmeister
    Thumb Down

    I calculate... (though I could be wrong...)

    So... 100km * 20km landing ellipse. That's 1.5 billion square metres. 5 million rocks in that area... That's 300 per square metre. (So I think some NASA folks have been exaggerating!) The lander itself occupies approx 1.5 square metres. So that's 450 of these rocks within the area of the lander. If they were evenly distibuted, it's one "rock" per 36 square centimetres. Given that each of the lander's three feet undoubtedly occupy approximately the same area....

    "The chances of this thing landing unscathed on Mars, are a million to one, he said. Aaaaaaaaaa aaaaaaaa aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa."

    So either some NASA-type boffins are really making it sound worse than it is, or those mission-threatening "rocks" could be more accurately described as "small stones".

  10. Samson David


    Plankmeister.. you did the wrong math.. its 5mil / 15bil.. works out to about 0.003 rocks per square meter.

    And what is the definition of a *rock* anyway..? pebbles..? stones..? boulders..?

  11. Chris

    you *are* wrong

    You have it backwards. It's .003 rock/m^2, or one rock for every 300 square meters. I think they can find some flat ground in there.

    Of course nowhere do they say what the average cross-sectional area of the rocks is, or whether it can be carried by a swallow. Given the thinness of the Martian air, I'm guessing no. Not a European or African swallow, anyway. Maybe a Martian swallow, though.

    mine's the coat of armour, not all covered with s**t.

  12. Plankmeister

    I had my doubts...

    ...about being correct. I also arrived at the same 0.003, but in my slightly pickled state interpreted this as one rock per 3mm^2. Which would be ridiculous. So I magically re-worked my calculation until I had something that was more reasonable.

    Oh well... Mine's the one with "Maths n00b" written on the back.

  13. David

    How do they know it is Mars

    Could be the Australian Outback for all we know.

    I have been to those places that were photographed. They just crop out the pubs and service stations.

    Oh yeah and man didn't land on the moon.

  14. Alan W. Rateliff, II
    Paris Hilton

    Should have asked the expert

    Paris, because she knows where the rocks are...

  15. oldfartuk
    Thumb Up

    re:How do they know it is Mars

    Well you can triangulate the radio signals, pretty hard to fake, really...........

  16. oldfartuk
    Thumb Down

    Statisitically significant..............

    On the other hand, the chances of winning the UK Lottery are about 14 million to one, but someone manages it most weeks.

    Were back to lies, damn lies and statistics, I see.

This topic is closed for new posts.