This short film discusses the design challenges faced by the quest to land the Phoenix Mars Lander near the north pole of Mars in May 2008. It is the first mission that is actually going to go try and reach out and touch water on the surface of another planet. In this video, NASA engineers explain in an accessible fashion the challenges they face in trying to get the Lander to land itself safely. The vehicle has traveled 422 million miles since its launching last August 4, 2007. To reach its destination, it must plunge into the Martian atmosphere at 12,750 miles an hour, where friction will slow it, heating the shield to 2,600 degrees Fahrenheit. For more information about the mission, visit the Phoenix Mars Mission website.
This video can be used to stimulate discussion of the Phoenix Mars Mission. After viewing the video, students can identify the problems posed by the landing and also discuss how the engineers use science and technology to help solve those problems. Launched in August 2007, the Phoenix Mars Mission is the first in NASA's Scout Program. It is designed to answer these questions:
- Can the Martian arctic support life?
- What is the history of water at the landing site?
- How is the Martian climate affected by polar dynamics?
Students can follow the mission’s progress by visiting the project website. Additional educational materials related to the mission can be found here.