The Challenges of Getting to Mars
Phoenix Mars Lander:
Countdown to Launch
Phoenix is a lander that's going to the north polar highlands of Mars. . .
. . .to look for evidence of. . .
. . .habitable zones, places where life might have existed in the past.
We're going to be repeating a number of tests that we did back in Denver...
both to fully check out the spacecraft after the shipment. . .
... as well as take on some minor updates to the software that we've been testing with overall.
Once we get out into June, then, we've got a month where we'll be installing the ordinance...
...and explosives onto the spacecraft that it needs to both separate itself and deploy the parachute.
This phase of the mission is basically the final checkouts and close-outs of the vehicle,
in preparation to mate it to the third stage, and to transport it out to the pad,
and get it stacked on the rocket and, of course, get it launched.
The most challenging part is, as you get closer and closer to the end,
there's less and less room to recover if something doesn't go right, so...
you know, it's really just managing things, and being on top of every little item,
because there's a point there where you can't recover, and we don't want to get to that point.
The biggest challenge this week is actually not the launch window per-se because it's an early morning launch,
but we are in our peak afternoon thunderstorm time of the year.
So the biggest challenges are the propellant loading that is taking place on the pad over the last couple of days,
and it's been cancelled because of the thunderstorms.
We were supposed to load oxidizer and then fuel onto the second stage of the launch vehicle today.
And they got through the oxidizer load, and then the prediction for weather this afternoon was not good,
so they decided to stand down from loading fuel which means they have to load fuel tomorrow.
And because of that, we'll likely slip spacecraft launch from what was planned to be Friday morning to Saturday morning.
We have two days of our launch window before we have to stand down for the Shuttle launch.
And so, we're hoping that we either get off in the first two days, or the Shuttle gets off in its first days...
...so that then we can start planning to launch right after the Shuttle.
Text: Saturday, August 4, 2007 -- Cape Canaveral, Florida, 5:26 a.m.
...main engine start...
...zero and liftoff of the Delta 2 rocket with Phoenix,
a distant science outpost seeking clues to the evolution at the polar region of Mars.
(rocket engine rumble)
Being on the program as long as I have, it's kind of like your kid going off to college.
You're very excited, you're very happy, but also sad that, uh...
...you know, your baby's basically going to go away.
And, you know, you're not going to hear from it again for eight or nine months.
There's a lot of joy, a lot of sadness, a lot of nervousness.
But that's part of the job, and we all deal with it in different ways.