After nine months on the way, the Polar Mars Lander, Phoenix, will be landing in less than half an hour. You can watch it online at NASA.gov. Control of the mission is being run from Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Los Angeles County. They’re on Pacific Time, I’m using Eastern Time; and we are 16 light-minutes from Mars.
More than half of all Mars landers have crashed, so it will be a tense moment in the control room.
19:42, lander separated successfully from main rocket.
19:45, four minutes til start of decelleration
10:46, getting data instead of just signal tone
19:47, start of burn, 1 minute to peak heat
19:50, parachute deployed
Ground velocity 90 metres per second
Ground velocity, 80 m/s
19:52, radar switched to altitude mode
Lander separation confirmed.
Altitude 30 m.
1952, Touchdown signal detected!
First soft landing in 31 years! The Mars Polar Lander is north of the Arctic Cicle on Mars.
19:55, video communication is detected.
Next, the propulsion system will be pressurized.
In about fifteen minutes, when the dust settles, the solar panels will spread out.