Tuesday, May 08, 2007

An artist's concept of the Phoenix lander on the Martian northern plain.

PHOENIX ARRIVES ON THE SPACE COAST... On Monday evening, NASA’s newest Mars lander arrived at Cape Canaveral in Florida, where it will be prepared for launch. Liftoff is scheduled for dawn on August 3, with Phoenix’s arrival at the Red Planet being in May of 2008. Much like the Dawn mission, there’s a personal reason why I’m interested in this newest flight to Mars...and that’s because my name should be onboard Phoenix the same way it should be on Dawn.

Technicians work on the Phoenix lander at the Lockheed Martin facility in Colorado.

I sent an e-mail today to The Planetary Society, which was responsible for fabricating the DVD on Phoenix, and received a reply saying that the disc is now installed on the lander. An update on the Planetary Society’s website should be posted within a week or two. Hopefully (or obviously?), a photo of the DVD will be shown in the update. Additional details about this couldn’t be given out since various channels at the Society and NASA have to give approval before news can be publicly released. It’s all good. My name is on a microchip and mini-DVD that are several miles apart from each other in the Sunshine State... How awesome.

A photo montage showing the crate carrying Phoenix, as it is being unloaded from the C-17 cargo plane that transported it from Colorado to Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Below is a list of key milestones awaiting Phoenix before it rises from the launch pad around 2:35 AM, PDT, on August 3rd:

May 10 and 11: Spin-balance test of Phoenix inside its back shell.
May 15: Installation of heat shield followed by separation test.
Third week of May: Landing radar integration and launch system verification tests...followed by a guidance navigation and control test.
Third week of June: Erection of the first stage booster of the Delta II rocket, which will launch Phoenix into space, at Pad 17-A in Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS).
First week of July: Installation of second stage booster atop first stage.
Mid-July: Leak check of first stage and simulated countdown.
Day after simulated countdown: Simulated flight test of the entire Delta II.
Third week of July: Phoenix payload is placed atop launch vehicle.
One week before launch: Delta II nose cone fairing will be installed around the Phoenix lander.

A photo montage showing technicians removing the crate and protective wrapping from around Phoenix (which is inside its protective back shell) at the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility in Florida's Kennedy Space Center.
Courtesy of George Shelton and Charisse Nahser/NASA Kennedy Space Center

Thursday, May 03, 2007

WARRIORS: 111, MAVERICKS: 86... Wow. Don't know how I would react if the 1999-2000 Lakers (who, just like Dallas this year, won 67 games during the regular season...but actually went on to win a championship) lost to the Sacramento Kings in the first round. Which they almost did. But didn't. Fortunately. It's like Phil Jackson getting revenge on Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf by coaching the Lakers to a victory over Chicago in the NBA Finals. Golden State rules. Mark Cuban must feel like crap right now. Obviously.

Baron Davis reacts after Golden State upsets Dallas in the first round of the NBA playoffs.