The Planetary Society's silica-glass DVD is ready to launch to Mars on board Phoenix, NASA's newest Scout mission led by Principal Investigator Peter Smith at the University of Arizona. Attached to the deck of the Phoenix lander, the DVD includes Visions of Mars, a collection of 19th and 20th century stories, essays and art inspired by the Red Planet, as well as the names of over a quarter million inhabitants of Earth. The disk will appear in some of the calibration images that Phoenix sends back from the Martian surface.
"Since The Planetary Society's disk should last for centuries on Mars, we hope astronauts at some future date will enjoy the visionary works we have sent in this first Martian library," said Louis Friedman, Executive Director of The Planetary Society, who conceived the idea for Visions of Mars. "These tales and images have inspired generations about the wonder of space, including many men and women who are now researchers and engineers in the space program."
This first library on Mars contains materials that represent 20 nations and cultures. Visions of Mars includes works by The Planetary Society's co-founder Carl Sagan, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Kim Stanley Robinson, Arthur C. Clarke, Percival Lowell and many more.
Phoenix will be the first lander to explore the Martian arctic, landing near 70 degrees north latitude. Designed to search for and study water ice, the spacecraft is a fixed lander with a suite of advanced instruments and a robotic arm that can dig up to half a meter into the soil. The Phoenix team hopes to uncover clues in the icy soil of the Martian arctic about the history of near surface ice and the planet's potential for habitability. Tune into a Planetary Radio interview about Phoenix with Peter Smith.
The first possible launch date for Phoenix is August 3, 2007, with a landing slated for 2008.
This will be The Planetary Society's second attempt to send Visions of Mars to its namesake planet. It was originally created by the Society to launch aboard Russia's Mars 96 spacecraft, which failed shortly after launch. The library has been updated and risen from the ashes for its Phoenix flight. It should be able to last at least 500 years on Mars, so there will be plenty of time for a future generation to discover and enjoy the works included on the DVD.
The Phoenix Mission is led by Principal Investigator Peter H. Smith of the University of Arizona, with project management at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and a development partnership with Lockheed Martin Space systems. International contributions for Phoenix are provided by the Canadian Space Agency, the University of Neuchatel (Switzerland), the University of Copenhagen, and the Max Planck Institute in Germany.
FOR MEDIA: On Thursday, August 2 at 10 AM, The Planetary Society will host a press conference at the Kennedy Space Center press site about the Visions of Mars DVD attached to the Phoenix lander. Dr. Amir Alexander of The Planetary Society will conduct the press conference, with science fiction author, Kim Stanley Robinson, joining by telephone. Media attending the conference will see sample illustrations from the DVD and a mock-up of the actual hardware that is mounted on the lander, and will learn more about the first library to land on Mars and the quarter million names of citizens of Earth that the DVD also contains. (See press release below) Robinson's book, Green Mars, is one of the works that will travel to Mars with the Phoenix mission. You must obtain NASA press credentials to attend and should apply on-line.