A new image taken by the HiRISE camera onboard MRO shows that Phoenix has suffered severe damage during the martian winter, and won’t be phoning home again. It looks like one of its solar panel “wings” broke off due to the weight of the ice that built up on it, which means there’ll be no more images, no more signals, that’s it.
So, time for this blog to say a final fond farewell to Phoenix…
We listened and listened, straining our electronic ears,
Hoping against hope to hear a single, simple tone from you;
A whispered note phoned home against all the odds –
But heard nothing.
And now HiRISE has shown us why: sometime
In the martian winter, buried beneath a brutal crush
Of cold you folded in your fragile wings one final time
And, with tiny, hoarfrost-crusted heart beating feebly
In the fading light, you died.
Lazarus would not be rising after all.
Fitting that a creature forged and born in fire
Should end its days entombed in ice, but sad
For those of us who kept you company as you sat
Statue-still on Mars through those lonely
Polar months. No roving for you, no daily new views
Of mountains high and craters deep, no steep
Slopes to climb; your dinner plate feet did not creep
A single inch away from where they first set down
Upon the frosty, rocky ground.
But we still loved you.
Our memories of your candle-flame life
Are bright but bitter sweet: that first sight
Of water ice – scraped flakes of alien blue-white
Glinting in the shadows of a trench…
Oven doors refusing to open, stubborn as an ox,
Resisting all attempts to pry them apart…
Precious, priceless dirt dumped onto grilles,
Clumping like porridge when it should have
Poured through the wires like wine…
That one-in-a-billion shot of you caught flying
Over Heimdal, parachute trailing behind…
All ancient history now, all magic moments
Lost in Time. Sleep now, and wait for that far
Far future day when gloved hands lift you from your
Resting place and carry you to the Great
Museum of Mars, healing your snapped wing
And standing you, with pride, beside
The Vikings, Rovers and broken Beagle bits,
Where you belong.
© Stuart Atkinson 2010