Phoenix Mars Mission

Phoenix
Phoenix

Ames scientist Dr. Aaron Zent is a member of the science team on NASA’s Phoenix mission, which successfully landed on the surface of Mars on 2008 May 25. Phoenix studied the history of water and habitability of soils in the north polar region. Dr. Zent was responsible for the design of the Thermal Electrical Conductivity Probe (TECP), a key instrument on the Microscopy Electrochemistry, and Conductivity Analyzer (MECA) payload. TECP measured the thermal and electrical conductive of the Martian soil which provides information on its nature and composition. The instrument also measured the thermal properties of the soil, which govern the heat flow into and out of the ground, water mobility, which determines habitability, and relative humidity, which governs the exchange of water between the surface and atmosphere. Dr. Carol Stoker is also a member Phoenix science team and led the Biological Potential Science Working Group in evaluating the habitability of the environment for present or past life. Dr. Stoker helped Ames computer scientists develop and implement a computer program that facilitated daily operations by visualizing the Lander environment. It allowed interactive viewing of the Lander and the planetary surface via three-dimensional rendering models. Dr. Christopher McKay is also a member of the Phoenix science team. He is responsible for assessing the biological potential of the landing site.