Watching the landing of the Mars Phoenix probe was one wonderful geek highlight last Spring. Alas, I’ve gotten a bit busy and haven’t been paying as much attention as I should. Then I heard the following sad message on Monday:
This is My Farewell Transmission From Mars
If you are reading this, then my mission is probably over.
This final entry is one that I asked be posted after my mission team announces they’ve lost contact with me. Today is that day and I must say good-bye, but I do it in triumph and not in grief.
As I’ve said before, there’s no other place I’d rather be than here. My mission lasted five months instead of three, and I’m content knowing that I worked hard and accomplished great things during that time. My work here is done, but I leave behind a legacy of images and data.
In that sense, you haven’t heard the end of me. Scientists will be releasing findings based on my data for months, possibly years, to come and today’s children will read of my discoveries in their textbooks. Engineers will use my experience during landing and surface operations to aid in designing future robotic missions.
But for now, it’s time for me to hunker down and brave what will be a long and cold autumn and winter. Temperatures should reach -199F (-128C) and a polar cap of carbon dioxide ice will envelop me in an icy tomb.
Seasons on Mars last about twice as long as seasons on Earth, so if you’re wondering when the next Martian spring in the northern hemisphere begins, it’s one Earth-year away—October 27, 2009. The next Martian summer solstice, when maximum sunlight would hit my solar arrays, falls on May 13, 2010.
That’s a long time away. And it’s one of the reasons there isn’t much hope that I’ll ever contact home again.
For my mission teams on Earth, I bid a special farewell and thank you. For the thousands of you who joined me on this journey with your correspondence, I will miss you dearly. I hope you’ll look to my kindred robotic explorers as they seek to further humankind’s quest to learn and understand our place in the universe. The rovers, Spirit and Opportunity (@MarsRovers), are still operating in their sun belt locations closer to the Martian equator; Cassini (@CassiniSaturn) is sailing around Saturn and its rings; and the Mars Science Laboratory (@MarsScienceLab)—the biggest rover ever built for launch to another planet—is being carefully pieced together for launch next year.
My mission team has promised to update my Twitter feed as more of my science discoveries are announced. If I’m lucky, perhaps one of the orbiters will snap a photo of me when spring comes around.
So long Earth. I’ll be here to greet the next explorers to arrive, be they robot or human.
It’s been a great pleasure to have Mars Phoenix guest blogging for us, reminiscing back on a successful mission via its personality conjurer, the great Veronica McGregor at JPL—maintainer of Phoenix’s famous Twitter feed. Just as Doug McCuistion from NASA said on the news conference today, it’s certainly more of an Irish wake than a funeral today. We’re drinking to you tonight, little buddy. You can see all of Phoenix’s previous entries and the official press release announcing the end of Phoenix’s mission.