Wild About Mars, Part 2 (the Landing)

[This is part 2 of the live Planetary Society event, Wild About Mars. Earlier one is below. Plus, later coverage of post-landing on Jan 4 page.]

There’s a live webcast, too…. So if you want to see it, go to the Planetary Society‘s site.

8:00… Background presentation on the star of the show, Mars, by Bruce Betts. Images of three Mars landing sites, viking 1, 2, and Pathfinder. Imagine trying to find out everything about a planet by only three views. Hence Mars Exploration Rovers (MER), which seeks to follow the water. MER much larger than Pathfinder, it’ll leave behind the landing shell and will wander wherever. [Difference from Pathfinder, which had instrumentation on landing shell, so Pathfinder would go back to base, and you could see an image of the Pathfinder roving robot itself. But by putting everything on the robot, no dramatic images of the Rover, and the Rover is free to go wherever mission directors deem best, leaving behind the shell.]

Landing site: Gusev crater. A valley nearby, looks like it might be a channel where water once was. Now Bruce Betts is talking us through the Dan Maas video. [Dan Maas rocks!]

8:24 we’re 6 minutes away from entry into Mars atmosphere. [gulp]

We’ll have commentary from Donna Shirley [Mars mission director, with Pathfinder] who’s giving commentary. We’ll watch NASA TV with commentary on what we’re seeing on NASA TV….

donna shirley:

Butterflies, bitten nails and excitement at the lab.

Something glitch with Deep Space Network. trying to reacquire the signal.

awaiting word on landing:

velocity 12000 miles per hour current velocity.

side note: Lander is down; but we’re hearing this in delay mode, because signal limited to speed of light.

[note: it’s tense here in the room]

8:32 deceleration going as expected. parachute deployment soon w/in a minute.

1000+ mph…. 300 mph. Parachute detected! applause here in the room….

heat shields off! altitude 8000′ feet

airbag in approx 25 seconds.

we got radar lock (YES!)

retro rocket firing.. await word to confirm!

awaiting word that we are on the ground. signs of bouncing on the surface!!!!!!

applause!!!!!!! we got bouncing word. we heard we do not have signal from spacecraft. Rolling…. spacecraft has to survive all boucning for landing to be a success…

got word on landing yay:

vehicle could bounce and roll up to a kilometer from its initial impact point. Awaiting word.

the way that canberra is processing might be producing noise that makes it hard to hear actual signal. [heh. signal? noise? say it ain’t so!]

We are trying to get direct signal, and will keep doing so until earthset. Then there are two orbiting vehicles that can pick up signal and then relay it on to us. Donna is telling us about Pathfinder’s lack of telemetry, and the fact that this mission has lots of telemetry, so we’ve got lots of data.

mars lander waiting:

If it bouncing around, and landed in a position so that the antenna is in right position. Bags have to deflate, and the petals open (and right themselves)

May have a data packet that might indicate something from vehicle, but need a bit more time. Positive confirmation of signal. We’re down! (applause here, but no reaction in teh control room onscreen)

Awaiting semaphor tones from landed vehicle. That’ll take a lotta processing to come across.

Stanford University reports that it might have received signal from Rover independenbly

SIGNAL!! Applause. applause applause and handshakes. (applause here too! lots.)

Lots of very relieved, happy people onscren at flight control.

mars landing yesss:

Goldstone has carrier signal in lock from the rover.

we’re getting commentary: high-five the airbag guy, that’s the mission director for Pathfinder. That’s the president of CalTech, that’s Sean O’Keefe, NASA administrator, etc.

When is earthset? Donna Shirley asks… Very shortly there’ll be earthset. At that point, no direct signal, but through Mars Global Surveyor and Mars Odyssey.

…one of the signal tones, rover landed base petal down, so opening up will be easier.

Retract the airbags, take as long as needed, critical procedure, then open petals (12 mins) then deploy the solar arrays. critical, because if dosn’t work, then the mission is over. So far it’s a best case scenario.

for NASA TV..l 9:30 pm scheduled news conference on NASA TV. 11:00 with commentary.

Applause, standing ovation… things could not be better, saith Donna Shirley and Bruce Betts

we’ll hear from the student scientists from JPL (who;ve been hugging a lot of sweaty scientists).

[off from the 7th row seat back to the wall where the beloved electrical outlet is. Sorry, not gonna convey the “Student Astronauts” fone conversation. Okay, that’s over. Now we’re on a break until the 9:30 news conference.

I gotta say, walking in to this place (Pasadena Civic Center, Planetary Society MarsFest) with a wi-fi-enabled computer, finding signal and typing what I see is very cool indeed. (Scoble says I beat CNN to the news. cool!). I wish I were wearing a shirt or button that says, “I’m blogging this.” (BTW, we got pictures, too, but it’ll be a while before those are up)