10.01.07 - Adopt-A-Mission
On August 4, the Phoenix Mars Mission launched from Cape Canaveral, beginning its 10-month flight to our red neighbor. Once it arrives, landing near Mars' north pole, Phoenix will dig beneath the surface, scooping up pristine soil for analysis. What will it find? Will there be evidence for previous life, microbial life, on Mars? Will there be a layer of permafrost? What will the chemistry tell us? There are so many questions to be answered.
I first learned of the Phoenix mission in the Mars class I mentioned in my August Musings (click here to read). Peter Smith, the principal investigator of the Phoenix mission, was the guest lecturer and announced that his proposal had been chosen by NASA. He beamed as he told us about the mission, and I felt honored to be there, to be one of the first recipients of such exciting news.
Since that day, I have watched the progress of the mission, reading news articles, visiting the mission's home page (http://phoenix.lpl.arizona.edu), and even volunteering at their open house here in Tucson this past May. I feel a special connection to this particular mission.
You could say I have adopted this mission, sort of like the adopt-a-highway program here in the United States. By adopting Phoenix, I am learning about the intricacies of what a NASA mission entails. I am learning some science and getting to know the people involved. And through this mission, I will get to know our red neighbor better.
Adopting a mission is a great way to learn astronomy. Every mission has a web site with lots of pages to explore. It's an easy and fun way to learn about a science that seems to intimidate so many people. By adopting a mission, it's as if it is yours. You watch it grow, moving towards its destination, learning as it learns.
In this age of astronomy, there are so many missions from which to choose. Who says you can only pick one mission? Personally, my next adoption is Dawn, a mission to the Asteroid Belt with visits to Vesta and Ceres (http://dawn.jpl.nasa.gov). The web site promises "a journey to the beginning of the solar system." I'm looking forward to the ride.
Until next time...
For previous musings, go to...