31 October 2008

Phoenix hanging in there

Posted by Ryan Anderson

Yesterday, Phoenix went into safe mode, where the spacecraft shuts off all but the most vital systems due to some sort of fault. In this case it related to shutting off the heater for the arm and was totally expected. But when controllers here on Earth tried to communicate, they got no response.

Is phoenix dead? Not yet. The twitter feed reports that phoenix is still alive, but will be switching off and on again like this until the end. Here are the most recent twitters. They are really… poignant.

When I go to sleep, @MichDdot , the mission team will post occasional updates here for me. Results of science analyses, for example

I’m not mobile, @gjain81, so here I’ll stay. My mission will draw to an end soon, and I can’t imagine a greater place to be than here.

I should stay well-preserved in this cold. I’ll be humankind’s monument here for centuries, eons, until future explorers come for me 😉

I may go to sleep soon, @lordavon . But my “Lazarus mode” might allow me wake up now and then for short times during next few weeks.

Many questions about next Martian summer and will I wake up? It is beyond expectations. But if it happens you’ll be among the 1st to know.

I hope you’ll follow another mission: @MarsRovers, @CassiniSaturn, @MarsScienceLab (the next Mars rover, FTW!) & more at http://is.gd/Sny

Lucky @MarsRovers. Their own TV special “5 Years on Mars” this Sunday Nov. 2, Nat Geo channel 8pm. A preview here: http://is.gd/5fpB

In case we don’t get this chance again, thank you all so much for the questions, comments & good wishes over the mission. It’s been awesome.

Take care of that beautiful blue marble out there in space, our home planet. I’ll be keeping an eye from here. Space exploration FTW!

Whew! I’m afraid it will be this way for awhile – shutting down & waking up again. I’m back, for now.

It’s as if Phoenix is being brave until the end, for our sakes, even cracking a few jokes and using euphemisms like “go to sleep” to ease the sadness. And it is genuinely sad. We aren’t used to seeing probes on Mars die. There have been those that never worked in the first place, but there was little personal connection with them. The personification of the Rovers and Phoenix is a new and wonderful thing, but it makes the end that much harder.

Luckily, Phoenix is with us for a little while longer. I’ll keep you posted.