The day I met Phoenix…

… kind of… 😉

I was lucky enough to visit and tour JPL recently, and was delighted to find a full-size replica of the lander there. What else was I supposed to do except pose beside it for a photo? 🙂


( I know, I know… if you were there you’d be smiling like a cheshire cat, but I hate having my pic taken, ok? )

So… seeing and standing next to that beautifully-crafted model really did bring home a) how big it is, b) how fragile-looking it is, and c) how aesthetically beautiful it is. With those big dragonfly wings it really does look like a robot insect of some kind, more than any other spacecraft I’ve ever seen. The robot arm looks too thin and fragile to even be able to move its own weight, never mind scratch and scrape away at the frigid surface of Mars…


…and all the antennae, aerials and struts on the top look ,ike they’d snap off if someone blew on them… but it all worked on Mars, wonderfully, and looking at that model gave me a new appreciation of just how successful the mission was.

It was hot at JPL, very hot in fact. Everyone was walking around in shirtsleeves and sweating in the bright Californian sunlight. Inside the hall where the Phoenix model stood, surrounded by fascinated and respectful onlookers, it was still very warm despite being air-conditioned, and felt like a hot summer’s day in the UK to this travelling Brit! It was odd to stand there looking at the model and comparing it with what the real thing is going through right now…

I know it’s still standing there, on the floor of Green Valley, probably now surrounded by frost-encrusted rocks, with its solar panels coated in a slowly-thickening crust of tinkling, twinkling ice crystals too… the sky above Phoenix darkens quickly now after a very short day, and any winds that waft across its deck carry with them stinging flakes of snow… the temperature has plunged now too, and if I was to magically transport myself to its side your landing site now would feel more like Narnia in the depths of the Snow Queen’s winter to me than the Arctic tundra it so closely resembles in those landing day photos…

Miss you, Phoenix… 😦


~ by phoenixpics on November 26, 2008.

One Response to “The day I met Phoenix…”

  1. Thanks for your coverage of the mission!

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