A final farewell to Phoenix…


If death certificates were issued for spaceprobes when their missions ended, then Phoenix’s certificate was effectively written out several days ago, when the decision was finally – and I’m sure reluctantly – taken to stop listening for signals from the lander.

The last attempt to pick up a signal from Phoenix was made on Nov 29th, when the orbiting Odyssey spacecraft cocked an electronic ear towards the north pole and tried to hear something, anything from Phoenix. The attempt was unsuccessful, and there will be no more. This means that the last confirmed signal from Phoenix was detected on Nov 2nd, and the chances of anything more being heard are extremely small.

It makes sense to stop listening for any plaintive beeps and bleeps from Phoenix. The lander is now almost certainly thick with frost, its electronic innards chilled to their core, and it has basically frozen to death in the merciless and brutal martian cold. When the next images of the lander are taken by HiRISE I’m sure they’ll show it standing in an icy landscape, as lifeless as a statue.

And what of the chances that it might reawaken when Spring comes to Green Valley? Well, the chances aren’t good. That brutal cold will physically affect the lander, weakening and even breaking some of its fragile electronic circuits and components, and if enough frost and ice gathers on those fragile solar panel wings they might even snap off and fall to the ground, so you’d have to be an incredible optimist to believe that the “Lazarus Command” will bring Phoenix back to life. But hey, you never know. I’m sure they’ll try. It can’t hurt, can it?

But really, being sensible about it, that’s It. The Phoenix mission is over. It was a heck of a ride while it lasted, but everything ends.

Farewell Phoenix. Sleep well. You’ve earned it.


~ by phoenixpics on December 2, 2008.

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