Mars Landing: Jargonwatch

The landing of Mars Phoenix is littered with TLAs (three letter acronyms) and specific jargon that means stuff other than what you might think. Here, in no particular order, is jargon to watch for, with what it all means.

How orbiters will be listening to Phoenix signals
Where orbiting spacecraft will be “listening in” when Phoenix enters the atmosphere and lands (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

EDL – Entry, Descent and Landing. The critical 7 minutes where the spacecraft either lands, or crashes. Nail-biting. Everything must work.

MRO – Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter – One of the the three orbiting space craft that will be “listening in” and helping w/ signal transmission during EDL.

Mars Odyssey – Orbiter that conducted science missions from 2002-2004 mapping the planet’s surface; is now used for Mars-surface to Earth communications.

Mars Express – Joint US-European orbiting mission, with instrumentation to study the planet’s surface. Satellite telecommunication helps transmit from rovers and will also be part of Phoenix transmissions.

HIRISE – “high rise” High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment – high rez cameras that take photos of the martian surface from high above in orbit. It’s thanks to HIRISE that we’ve got images of the Phoenix landing area.

DSN – Deep Space Network – The transmission of signals from space to earth. Or the planetary internet. There are three “listening” dish antennae on earth, spaced equally around the globe: Goldstone is in California, Canberra is in Australia, and Madrid is in Spain.

Nominal – Expected outcome, things working well. Think of it as two thumbs up. “All systems nominal” is a statement that things are going as well as can be expected.

Anomaly – Uh oh.

Voca – The headset/audio system of communication in mission control. NASA TV media will cut off conversation, saying “I hear something on voca” or “We’ll go back to voca” — in other words, we’ll shush now and listen to what the staff of mission control are saying to one another via their headsets.

[I’ll add to this list as I think of things, but I gotta get ready to leave]

One response to “Mars Landing: Jargonwatch”

  1. Miss Havisham, bitter anti-bride

    I want this entire post plastered on my wall. Mars gang graffiti.