Mars Update

Not only did the University of Arizona’s Phoenix lander land safely on the surface of Mars yesterday and get some neat photographs, but the HiRISE camera (also owned and run by the University of Arizona) on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter managed to snap a picture, from orbit, of the Phoenix lander parachuting to the surface.
Talk about a long shot: the Phoenix lander was all bundled up for the descent, and was less than two meters in diameter. To get the picture, the MRO had to rotate 62 degrees off-down-axis and take the picture from a highly inclined angle. My back-of-the-envelope calculations show that the MRO was about 602km (~375 miles) away from Phoenix when it took the photograph. That’s some impressive photography.
This is the first time in history that a spacecraft has photographed another spacecraft landing on Mars.
I seem to have recovered somewhat from the excess champagne consumed yesterday. All of us here at the UofA are still quite giddy about it. Regular posting will resume shortly.

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