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Eternal Flame? Phoenix Lander Lasting Longer Than Expected October 6, 2008

Posted by Nick Azer in Base Race, Google Lunar X Prize, Helium-3, Integration, Phoenix lander, robotics, rover.

NASA’s robotic Mars lander, Phoenix, made news recently as it was snowed on. Let the Martian snowmen and snowball fights commence.

But, a subplot to this event and just as notable in the long run, is that the Phoenix lander has lasted much longer than anticipated.

Originally expected to last 90 Martian days (also known as “sols”; Martian hours, minutes, and seconds are 2.7% longer than Earth ones), the lander has operated for 120+. The Martian winter is settling in, and with the lander being at a pole, that means a long, cold dark and the probable end of the lander’s lifespan.

Considering that everything from the $30 million Google Lunar X Prize up through Helium-3 mining and moon base surveying and construction will be completed by similar robotic rovers and other heroic robots, the fact that as high-profile a rover as the Phoenix has proven much more durable than anticipated is great news for any and all forthcoming efforts to integrate, and then colonize the Moon.

Rovers proving more durable means that everything on Luna will get explored, built on, and mined that much faster and more efficiently (and more efficiency itself speeds things up again by freeing up R+D, etc. cash). If rovers and other equipment prove to consistently outperform expectations like the Phoenix has, then the pace of the Moon’s integration into our Earthbound society is going to get really wild.

The Phoenix lander’s perserverance has shone a bright light of promise into the future of robotic Martian, Lunar, and other missions.



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