Phoenix lander in descent, shot by the Mars Orbiter

See that thing in this image that looks like a Martian vehicle descending by parachute to the surface of Mars? That's the Phoenix lander, captured in mid-drop, still glowing from entry into the atmosphere, by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. How badass awesome is it to be a human? Super badass awesome. Link (via Making Light)


  1. Super badass awesome indeed. I watched the NASA coverage of the landing yesterday and it was nothing short of thrilling. And hey, don’t forget, follow the carbon.

  2. This makes me grin from ear to ear.

    Thank you. I think I’m printing this for inspiration.

  3. I watched the landing through the live web stream on their website. I must admit i had slight teary sheen to my eyes after. And did you read it was on a quarter of a degree tilt? It was designed to handle up 16,you couldn’t ask for a better landing. Seriously great job.

    The link describes it as “a speeding bullet photographed by a speeding bullet”. A very apt analogy.

  4. The Martians have the HD full color video of the whole thing. I’ll post the URL as soon as I find it.

  5. #5: Be sure to correct for terrestrial vision. Martian video gives me a headache, what with their tetrachromate color sense.

  6. “Directory of wonderful things”, indeed.
    Woweezowee did that picture put me in a happy mood.

  7. Most of the Martians on the internet are complaining that the mars cup was interrupted to show yet another lander not coming down anywhere close to the canals or cities.

  8. I’m sorry, all I see is a couple of light blips on a dark background. Why is this awesome?

  9. why is this awesome?…… because it is REAL. We all are born with a sense of wonder, we owe it to ourselves to do the work to keep that sense. Think about what the image really means. During the first moon landing, we could look up and SEE the moon and KNOW a human foot had finally tread upon it. This image is from MARS! Can you not feel something knowing that your descendant may very well walk there one day?

  10. errr… @#7 and @#9; this is awesome in the way the “Speed Racer” movie isn’t. What something means can, unbelievably perhaps, be more important than how it looks. In this case it is the human achievement that this photo represents that is awesome. The artistic merit of the photo itself is not relevant. (If your comments were intended to be ironic – apologies. I am often found wanting in this area.)

  11. This is awesome in every way that it is possible to measure awesome. We did this — sent a metal robot to a ball 180 million miles away! Look what we’ve done!

  12. Like the T-shirt says “Science: it works”
    First that glorious shot of the Earth/Moon system taken from Mars orbit, now this. Fabulous.

  13. why is this awesome?…… because it is REAL. We all are born with a sense of wonder, we owe it to ourselves to do the work to keep that sense.

    Hear, hear.

    Every single launch still does it for me. “CAPCOM: Close and lock visors and initiate O2 flow.” Holy cow!

  14. “As I stood thus meditating, I turned my gaze from the landscape to the heavens where the myriad stars formed a gorgeous and fitting canopy for the wonders of the earthly scene. My attention was quickly riveted by a large red star close to the distant horizon. As I gazed upon it I felt a spell of overpowering fascination–it was Mars, the god of war, and for me, the fighting man, it had always held the power of irresistible enchantment. As I gazed at it on that far-gone night it seemed to call across the unthinkable void, to lure me to it, to draw me as the lodestone attracts a particle of iron.

    My longing was beyond the power of opposition; I closed my eyes, stretched out my arms toward the god of my vocation and felt myself drawn with the suddenness of thought through the trackless immensity of space. There was an instant of extreme cold and utter darkness.”

    – A Princess of Mars –

    My deep and abiding thanks to all those wonderful people who helped the Phoenix Mars Mission happen.

  15. We’re back on Mars !! YAY!

    And what a beautiful landing, just ONE degree off true!

    Simply amazingly fantastic :)

  16. Good to see us back on Mars and nice to read that people here are excited about this.

    FYI, there’s a great animation by MAAS Digital (the same folks who did all the great Mars Rover animations) that lays out the entire mission. Very good way to get a handle on what’s going on in the actual photos from the lander. In fact there’s a shot in the animation of the lander/chute that’s almost exactly the same as the pic shown above. Pretty cool.

  17. Oh, I just noticed, mine is the same as the one in the post, but with a visible background..

  18. We’re back on Mars !! YAY! And what a beautiful landing, just ONE degree off true! Simply amazingly fantastic :)

    Kind of gets you right there.

    Or in your case, Spock, I guess that’s right here.

  19. Very few things make me proud to be human. Art is one.

    But this, this makes my heart burst with pride, at our ingenuity, our persistance, our derring do!

    I mean, things like this let you cast an eye back over our collective shoulder, and witness our long climb out of the darkness. Sometimes sideways, but ever upward.

    Today, We Fuckin Rock!
    (tomorrow is another day)

  20. Ah, to be born later. Seems the ability to witness the present is overshadowed by the desire to witness the future. I’ll be dead before we walk on the surface of distant planets.

  21. …still glowing from entry into the atmosphere…

    I hope it’s glowing from reflected sunlight, or that parachute isn’t going to last long.

  22. ^Yup, the lander isn’t “still glowing from entry into the atmosphere”, it’s bright because it’s being lit by the sun. The lander gets far below glowing speeds before it deploys the parachutes.

  23. It gives me a warm fuzzy to think that there’ll probably be humans living on Mars before I discorporate. I grok a goodness in this.

  24. It does make me proud to be human (which is a weird thing to say, but still). WE did that. We can reach out to other planets, and perhaps someday, the stars…

  25. Some numbers to use against the doubters:
    – stop watching pro sports and we pay for most of NASA.
    – space exploration costs about the same as the player payroll of the NHL + NBA.
    – the Yankees, Mets and Tigers payroll at $481m is more than the $420m Mars Phoenix Budget…

    Here are some numbers:

    $6.7 billion: NFL Total Revenue
    $6.1 billion: MLB Total Revenue
    $4.7 billion: NASA Science Budget
    $3.9 billion: NFL Player Payroll
    $3.4 billion: NBA Total Revenue
    $3.3 billion: NASA Space Shuttle Budget
    $3.1 billion: NASA Space Exploration Budget
    $2.7 billion: MLB Player Payroll
    $2.3 billion: NHL Total Revenue
    $1.9 billion: NBA Player Payroll
    $1.8 billion: Int’l Space Station Budget
    $1.2 billion: NHL Player Payroll

    2008 NASA Budget:
    MLB Team Payroll:
    Pro Sports Budgets:

  26. Johnny0, while I hugely agree that this type of work is important, if only we could make NASA a bit more spend-thrift in realistically budgeting (and then staying within said buget), or being more transparent in the outsourcing and sub-contracting they do, we could probably get a significant return in more missions and better science.

  27. As cool as this is (and to this lifelong space cowboy, its VERY cool), I thought they were going to land closer to the pole. I was hoping to be able to see patches of ice, and maybe a Martian Yeti. Hopefully they will find some when the dig down a little bit.

  28. As much as I admire the technical achievement, comments such as:

    “How badass awesome is it to be a human? Super badass awesome”

    simply remind me how embarrassed I am to be a human being.

    Yeah, badass awesome… We can send a probe to our nearest neighbour planet and photograph it during its descent at the same time as spending more than $6T on invading a foreign nation (with greater than 100,000 casualties) over oil, on the clearly dubious pretence that they have the same weapons of mass destruction that we have up our own arsenals…

    Sorry, that’s not meant as a troll. Just trying to bring people back down to Earth…

  29. #43: I read that the area the lander is in will be encrusted with dry ice during the Martian winter. NASA isn’t confident that the lander would survive that.

  30. Thanks #44 & 42 – those are amazing! That shot against the crater is one of the most magnificent images I’ve ever seen.

  31. we’ve nothing to compare to. Perhaps all other intelligences are even bloodier and stupider than us. For all we know, we’re doing GOOD.

    but I doubt it

  32. To Nasa Scientists and all the technicians.

    I congratulate all of you for the Phoenix Mission. This is the first step towards the universe we are going. But there is still lots of work to be done. We have to study the environment and the geology and the conditions prevailing in this planet to make our life easier and simpler. So, before landing or taking any human risks, first study the climatic conditions and the atmosphere and especially any water or is there is any compound from which oxygen can be derived.

    Thank you, sir.

    Rajesh Bhanjan from india.

  33. #45 posted by aeolian, May 27, 2008 4:30 PM

    Earth sucks, mainly because us humans, that being said this is still awesome. Sure we have our problems here on earth, but as long as we can’t get along with each other that’s just going to be the way the world is (at least until greed isn’t apart of human nature). As for why they didn’t land closer to the pole, probably because they don’t want this thing to die off so soon. You have to remember, they only have three months to do science. Then Mars freezes over, and they’re without a power source.

  34. Thanks Arkizzle for the photo of the lander with the mini-DVD and the little American flag attached to the outside. The mini-DVD from the Planetary Society “contains a message to future Martian explorers, science fiction stories and art inspired by the Red Planet, and the names of more than a quarter million earthlings.”
    One of the stories is a recording of Orson Welles’ 1938 radio broadcast of “War of the Worlds”:

  35. #45 Aeolian

    You’ve clearly missed ALL the other threads, where we bitch about all the problems you listed and generally make ourselves feel bad about the state of the planet.

    In THIS THREAD however, people let themselves remember what it means to have the potential to do wonderful things and if you read the things people wrote, it’s clearly effecting.

    Do we have to take every opportunity to hyper-contextualize all the good things with all the bad things? I think most regulars on this site know plenty about the bad things going on in the world, and are over-aware of how difficult things are to change, and how much effort is actually involved.

    Sometimes it’s nice to let the good things boost your spirit, so you have the energy and desire to deal with the rest of the shit.

    This is a wonderful thing. Let us be enchanted for this moment, as the road is long yet and we’ve only just begun.

  36. Source: (links included)

    = = =

    Worldwide Me-the-Media Mars Scoop
    June 2nd, 2008

    May 25, Phoenix, the next Mars Explorer, landed on the Red Planet.
    Phoenix has a DVD-ROM on it, visible for all aliens, next to the US
    flag image.

    What on Earth and for heaven’s sake, I wondered, does it say in the
    text block just beneath the disk’s center? This thing, made of a
    special silica glass, of course is meant to be Me-marketing par
    excellence: the first digital library representing human kind as such,
    our archetypal Me, on this most of the time icecold planet nearby.

    To get a clue, I loaded a fairly hires picture from the web, oversized
    it on a PowerPoint slide, put on my +1.0 reading spectacles, focused
    my eyes, and tried to decipher the text. It wasn’t easy at all, but
    finally I managed to get the full picture. However, I’m not sure about
    the word with the (? ? . . . ? ?) behind it. Someone help me please,
    to solve this final mystery!

    Well, below is what I made of it, imho a little hilarious and actually
    strictly relevant for the record to visitors in some down-to-earth
    space museum:

    “This archive, provided to the NASA Phoenix mission by The Planetary
    Society, contains literature and art (Vison of Mars), greetings from
    Mars visionaries of our day, and names of 21st century Earthlings who
    wanted to send their names to Mars. This DVD-ROM is designed to be
    read on personal computers in 2007. Information is stored in a spiral
    groove on the disc. A laser beam can scan the groove when metallized
    or a microscope can be used. Very small bumps and holes ( ? ? not sure
    about this ? ? ) represent the zeroes and ones of digital information.
    The groove is about 0,74 microns wide. For more information refer to
    the standards document ECMA-268 (80 mm DVD Read-Only Disk).”

    This discovery was made on June 1 by Jaap Bloem, co-author of the Me
    the Media book, currently in Dutch, but to be published in English and
    French as well ( On June 7 the text was submitted
    to the Wikipedia Phoenix spacecraft lemma.

    = = =

  37. Hmm.. I checked for references, but couldn’t find any better than this, which I presume is the same one you used.

    “Holes” seems right in context, but I can’t see where the “L” would be, and looking at words with an “L” in them on the same disk, you can see it standing proud, like in the word “spiral”.

    Sorry :)

  38. @ARKIZZLE:

    My idea. Could be it says “hoses” however. A normal English word, but a typo in the context of course. That would be fun. With such an error no alien ever would be able to figure out the exact meaning of the text. I mailed Perhaps they can help.

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