Monday, 26 May 2008


Exciting news this morning, when the Phoenix lander touched down safely near the north pole of Mars just before 10am AEST.

The landing was always going to be dicey, with a freefall drop followed by a parachute deployment and braking thrusters to bring it down safely.

My workplace has all sorts of restrictions on net content, so sadly no streaming vision of the event could be seen at my workstation. Knowing this in advance, I seriously considered turning up to work two hours late, but ultimately decided against it.

I just made do with checking the liveblogs at and a couple of other places.

The fact that even that managed to get me psyched up gives you some idea of how much stuff like this means to me and other space geeks of my ilk.

The images the Phoenix has relayed back aren't as spectacular as those from the wandering rovers Spirit and Opportunity (still going strong after landing four years ago for a three-month mission) but this one isn't about the pretty pictures.

This one is just about the science. The discovery. Getting out there and digging in the dirt and seeing what there is to see.

Unlike the rovers the Phoenix will be sitting stationary, drilling into the Martian surface to hopefully find water ice and organic molecules.

The great hope, of course, is that it will find evidence of life. Even the tiniest hint of bacteria would be enough to show that we're not alone in the universe.

We wait with bated breath, but for today the successful landing is enough.

It reminds us once again that while we sit here huddled on our tiny world, there's a whole universe out there for us to explore.