NASA's JPL sim "Explorer Island" was full to capacity this sunday as space exploration enthusiasts gathered for the final hours of the Mars Odyssey/Phoenix Lander reaching Mars and preparing for the deployment and landing of the Phoenix Lander. Explorer Island is JPL's gateway for Second Life residents to experience space exploration and education as well as keep up to date on current space exploration events, JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory)style. This is an impressive sim to say the least. The sim landing point alone has hours worth of sights to explore and interactive content. Stationed in Orbit at roughly 350 meters is the Magellan Probe experience (photos included) with information about the history of the Magellan missions. In orbit much higher at 650 meters is the Victoria Station Visitors Center at the Mars Victoria Crater site (photos included). Here you will be awed by the experience of going "into" the Victoria Crater on Mars. For the best experience, your draw distance should be set to max for that "I'm on Mars" feeling. Victoria Station Visitor Center also has images and experiences for the Viking missions to Mars, and so much more on Explorer island about the history of space exploration. Today was a special day for many at NASA, JPL, University of Arizona and Second Life residents and space enthusiasts. Phoenix Lander - Landed on Mars polar region at 4:53pm PDT (May, 25th, 2008) carried to and deployed by the Mars Odyssey Orbiter which made the 422-million-mile flight at roughly 60,000mph from Earth to Mars after launching on Aug. 4, 2007, in about 7000 hours. The landing, delayed by only 7 seconds but within normal landing times, put the Phoenix Lander at the furthest side of the landing zone. The Phoenix Lander landed almost perfectly flat and level and being less than a 1/4 of a degree off vertical center, is considered a perfect landing. Pictures were received at the University Arizona Science Center almost exactly 2 hours after landing and transmitted to the JPL Mission control at the California Institute of Technology shortly after to an elated science team (photos included). The data (telemetry) takes 15 minutes to reach earth at the speed of light making remote control of the flight and landing impossible. Onboard programs provide all the necessary instructions for a successful flight and landing with the exception that course corrections can be sent from earth during flight if need be. The Flight Operations team had been dismissed only minutes earlier when the Surface Operations team had taken over and prepared for the first photos to reach earth. The first photos were scheduled to be of the deployment of the solar collection array that will start charging the landers batteries for use by the onboard equipment. The second photo would be of Phoenix landing pads and the surrounding mars ground around them followed by photos of the horizon. Mars Lunar rovers have been present on the planet for going on 4 years. Past missions to Mars: Mars Global Surveyor, Mars Pathfinder (first landing rover) and 30 years ago the Viking Missions to mars Viking 1, launched on 20 August 1975, and Viking 2, launched on 9 September 1975. Each spacecraft consisted of an orbiter and a lander. (no rovers at that time) Mission teams: NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.; Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver; and the University of Arizona, Tucson. This was the first successful Mars landing without airbags since Viking 2 in 1976. Another critical deployment will be the first use of the 7.7-foot-long robotic arm on Phoenix, which will not be attempted for at least two days. Researchers will use the arm during future weeks to get samples of soil and ice into laboratory instruments on the lander deck. Images: Courtesy NASA/JPL-Calech/University of Arizona (more images available at http://phoenix.lpl.arizona.edu/images.php?gID=0&cID=7
) Links: Phoenix Mars Mission - http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/phoenix/main/index.html
Phoenix Mars Lander Blog - http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/phoenix/blogs/index.html
This is Rocket Flasheart reporting for CNN in Second Life.