•November 10, 2008 • Leave a Comment

There’s a NASA press teleconference going on right now, and the team behind the Phoenix lander has just announced that Phoenix hasn’t been heard of since last Wednesday, and they have declared “End of Mission Operations”, meaning Phoenix has gone to sleep and isn’t expected to wake up again. Sad news, but it was always going to come…

More on this soon…



•November 5, 2008 • Leave a Comment

I’ve just noticed that this blog has now had over 9,000 visits… that’s crazy, really! A huge THANK YOU to you, whether you’re someone who stops by regularly, or someone who has only been here a couple of times. Hope you enjoy the pictures!

Preparing To Sleep…

•November 3, 2008 • 1 Comment

Although obviously I hope it isn’t the case, this might well end up being my “epitaph” or tribute to Phoenix, what with her energy problems and the increasingly-hostile conditions at her landing site. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that she can survive to at least send back a few more sols’ worth of pictures before she falls silent forever…




My once-fierce flames are failing now:

Fading as the fleeing Sun fades,

And I can barely feel

Their warmth as I stand here,

On Barsoom’s epic Polar Plain,

Staring over a sea of ancient stones,

My very bones chilled by Mars’ aching cold

as my butterfly-brief life ebbs away… 


Once I stood proud beneath this great

Dome of a sky. Now my whole body shakes

In fear, for the hungry wolves of winter

Are drawing near. I hear their howling

on the icy wind, see their frost-flecked eyes

staring at me from the cruel dark,

proof that Death is stalking me now,

creeping forwards on all fours, edging a little closer

every time I blink… I don’t think

I can stay awake much longer…


Dying in this fading, hoar-frost half light

I cannot help but wonder through the night

Have I made you proud of me? Have I achieved

All you hoped and dreamed I would? Whenever I could

I reached out with my claw and scraped it red and raw

Against the ice I came to find. But my craw

Remains as dry tosol as it was when I arrived,

My hungry TEGA stomachs grumble still,

Filled not with precious proof that Mars was once

A home for life but clogged with cloying dirt

That rattles inside me mockingly

As the polar wind blows through my body

Like a ghost – a reminder I am already in my grave…


And now, as the sullen sun sets again I start

To hear and see strange things: is that the yapping

And yipping of dogs or just the cracking

Of my slowly splintering wings?

On the far horizon there- a ragged line of men

In frozen-fur hoods and heavy, dragging boots?

I see their birds nest beards clotted with frost

As they heave heir creaking sleds, crump-crumping through

The snow – no… no… they are just dust devils

Whirling past, taking one last pitying look

At the alien that fell out of their sky all those months

Ago, uninvited, and now lies close to death…


And I’m sure there is no ghostly figure

Standing by my side, and their frostbitten hand

– Cocooned inside a seal-fur glove –

Is not really resting on my shoulder, but as I shiver

Uncontrollably I can half believe I hear

The voice of Shackleton – no stranger

To ice and cold – speaking soft into my ear…


I believe it is in our nature to explore, to reach out

into the unknown. The only true failure… would be not to explore at all.”


… and with those words I lay my heavy head

down upon the frosty ground, to the sound

of my own heartbeat slowing down,

and close my tired eyes one final time.

The last thing I see: a spark of pure blue light

Shining in the west, a blessed sight,

Burning with the gentle glow of six billion curious souls.

Some will remember me, I hope, and should your

restless eyes gaze at the starry sky and see Ares

Glinting ‘bove the trees then think of me,

And cast your mind back to these golden

Glorious Days, when a Phoenix flew to Mars..!


© Stuart Atkinson 2008


The End Is Nigh…

•October 30, 2008 • Leave a Comment

I’m not sure how many more – if any – pictures I’ll be posting here, because it seems that Phoenix really is living on borrowed time now. She’s in a pretty bad way, in fact. If you take a look at my post on my general blog, Cumbrian Sky (link over there on the right) you’ll see that no sooner had her controllers started switching off un-needed systems and pieces of hardware (like the robot arm and the TEGA ovens) to conserve energy than the probe put itself into Safe mode, so it seems as if power levels are pretty low now, and many people are wondering if Phoenix might actually have taken its last pictures of the martian arctic.

Hopefully there’s a little more to come from Phoenix, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if she’s sent back her last pictures from Barsoom. All we can do now is wait and see what happens.

But Phoenix’s flames are definitely fading…

The changing view from Phoenix…

•October 28, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Here are two colourisatons, showing exactly the same section of Phoenix’s landing site but at very different times of the sol (that’s day in Old Terran! 😉 ) First, a Sol 151 image, taken at around 05.15 local time…

You can see some hints of blueish-tinged frost on the ground – but not a lot, which is a bit of a surprise; back in August it seemed like the ground around Phoenix would soon be thick and fat with frost, but that just hasn’t happened… It’s bound to happen soon tho, as Phoenix’s nights are drawing in, and the sky seems very cloudy now… some of that water vapour scudding overhead has to start condensing out soon…?

And now, an image taken around 9 hours earlier, at around 20.40 on Sol 150…

Warning, that image has been tweaked and stretched and enhanced to within an inch of its life, until it almost begged for mercy, so I’m not claiming at all – and I NEVER do that here anyway – that it’s a “real” or “natural” colour pic, it’s an unashamedly arty pic, made just because I wanted to and could, and wanted to make a pretty pic, not a scientifically accurate one… but it does show that by that time of the sol the lighting was very soft, and shadows almost non-existent…

As usual, please click on the images to bring up full size versions. Well worth the effort.

Two very different views of the same area of rocks and dust, showing just what a beautiful, beautiful world Mars is… 🙂

Sol 148 – The Big Picture…

•October 25, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Just a gorgeous pic, I think… especially if you click on it to enlarge it 🙂

Sol 148… Hissing Sid feeds..?

•October 25, 2008 • Leave a Comment

What was that? “Who’s Hissing Sid?” Ah, showing my age there! I imagine that if you’re not British and older than 35 you won’t have a clue… Well, I’m not going to tell you, you’ll have to Google it… 😉 (But before you do that, click on the image for a full size version).