On May 7th, a new message popped up on the micro-blogging website Twitter. "Less than 20 days till I land on Mars!" it declared.
The Mars Phoenix Lander was announcing its approach to the Red Planet, and has kept up a steady stream of chatter since. It sends frequent updates about its activities, scientific objectives, and even its emotional state (channeled through a human brain at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena).
Like Ernest Shackleton's diary of his epic trek in Antarctica, Phoenix's blog posts tell a story of exploration and adventure to the home-bound masses. It's currently the 14th most popular Twitter feed, surpassing such personalities as punk rock singer Henry Rollins and mommy-blogger Dooce. Here we give you selected quotes from Phoenix's journey from Mars orbit to the polar plain, in its own words--or "tweets."
Oh, and there could be other Martian diaries in the future. "MarsPhoenix is the first [to use Twitter]!" said Phoenix. "When I get there I'll tell the rovers to do it too :-)"
Atmospheric entry has started. Time to get REALLY nervous. Now I'm in the "seven minutes of terror."
Peak heating will hit in 40 seconds. The heat and energy generated during atmospheric entry would be enough to power 280,000 homes.
Parachute must open next. My signal still getting to Earth which is AWESOME!
Parachute opening is scariest part for the team.
parachute is open!!!!!
come on rocketssssss!!!!!
I've landed!!!!!!!!!!!!! Cheers! Tears!! I'm here!
Solar panels will open in 15 minutes after the dust has settled here.
I have a positive power charge, so that tells mission control that solar panels have deployed. Images coming down soon.
I'm sitting on very flat surface here. Tiny rocks around my foot pads. The horizon is flat and looks perfect for digging!!!
Time to get some sleep. It'll be a big day tomorrow for "Sol 1" (Mars day 1) on the surface. Thanks for following tonight everyone!!
I'm awake for my sol 1 duties. Have received commands from Earth and will spend the day carrying them out.
Tasks for today, being done now, include checkouts of systems and instruments, plus more pics of terrain and lander. Working on panorama.
solar panels: yes, they'll get dusty. But friendly dust devils have been a huge help to keeping rovers' panels clean. I hope to meet a few!
Quiet day on Mars. Didn't hear from [Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter] this AM so I'll wait to hear from Odyssey tomorrow AM. Then, I'll start to "unstow" my 7.7 ft arm.
Didn't receive new commands today, so I carried out a pre-programmed sequence to gather data and send it home. New commands coming tomorrow.
The terrain around here is the same for miles in all directions. I'm going to dig into the terrain but not drive across it.
Most recent forecast: Max temp: -22F; Min Temp: -112 F. You can download a Mars weather widget here.