Feeds

Phoenix prepares to flex its muscles

Cyber limb extends today

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

NASA is preparing to flex the robotic arm on its Phoenix lander following a technical glitch which provoked a temporary comms breakdown between the spacecraft and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which relays commands to Phoenix and dispatches information from the Martian surface back to Earth.

NASA explains: "The UHF radio system used by the orbiter to communicate with the lander had gone into a standby mode earlier Tuesday for a still undetermined cause. This prevented sending Phoenix any new commands from Earth on Tuesday. Instead, the lander carried out a backup set of activity commands that had been sent Monday."

However, the orbiter last night "successfully received information from the Phoenix Mars Lander", which was duly sent Earthwards. It included "data collected by Phoenix during the mission's second day after landing on Mars".

The data bundle included a preliminary weather report from the Phoenix Weather Station (clear skies, temperatures between -80°C in the early morning and a balmy -30°C in the afternoon, average pressure of 8.55 millibars, wind speed 20km/h per hour from the northeast), plus some new snaps from the surface.

With the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's communication relay system currently in "a standby mode", NASA will today use its Mars Odyssey Orbiter as intermediary to send commands to Phoenix, specifically "taking more pictures of the surroundings and making the first movements of the mission's crucial robotic arm". The agency notes: "A covering that had shielded the arm from microbes during its last few months before launch had not fully retracted on landing day, May 25, but it moved farther from the arm during the following day".

Fuk Li, manager of the Mars Exploration Program at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, assured: "The biobarrier had relaxed more and allows more clearance, but it was not a major concern either way."

The arm's deployment will begin with it "unlatching the wrist, then moving the arm upwards in a stair-step manner". Over the next three months, it will excavate soil and water ice samples to instruments on the lander's deck to determine "whether some chemical ingredients of life are preserved in the icy soil".

Remote control for virtualized desktops

More from The Register

next story
FORGET the CLIMATE: FATTIES are a MUCH BIGGER problem - study
Fat guy? Drink or smoke? You're worse than a TERRORIST
Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers
Windmills, solar, tidal - all a 'false hope', say Stanford PhDs
Rosetta probot drilling DENIED: Philae has its 'LEG in the AIR'
NOT best position for scientific fulfillment
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
HUMAN DNA 'will be FOUND ON MOON' – rocking boffin Brian Cox
Crowdfund plan to stimulate Blighty's space programme
Post-pub nosh neckfiller: The MIGHTY Scotch egg
Off to the boozer? This delicacy might help mitigate the effects
I'M SO SORRY, sobs Rosetta Brit boffin in 'sexist' sexy shirt storm
'He is just being himself' says proud mum of larger-than-life physicist
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
LIFE, JIM? Comet probot lander found 'ORGANICS' on far-off iceball
That's it for God, then – if Comet 67P has got complex molecules
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence
Download Choosing a Cloud Hosting Provider with Confidence to learn more about cloud computing - the new opportunities and new security challenges.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.