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back to article NASA's Phoenix closes on Red Planet

NASA has adjusted the flight path of its Phoenix Mars Lander, en route to a planned touch-down on the Red Planet on 25 May, on its mission to explore the body's Arctic plain. The agency has "conditionally approved" a roughly 62 mile by 12 mile (100km by 20km) "landing ellipse" in an area dubbed "Green Valley", which lies at …

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Unhappy

what...

...No Space Lego image?

Think you definately missed an opportunity to play with the little nobbly bricks on this one!

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Alien

Terminology.

You probably shouldn't describe its payload as an "arsenal", you'll make amanfromMars nervous.

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Coat

There's always a chance that we'll roll snake eyes

So have they found ophidian life on mars or not? Enquiring minds want to know!

(Mine's the one with the scales...)

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Alert

1 in 5 million chance

. . . . of smacking a rock!!??

God bless 'em for throwing caution to the wind.

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Science vs history and gardening

> it's two principal "bold objectives" to "study the history of water in the Martian arctic" and "search for evidence of a habitable zone and assess the biological potential of the ice-soil boundary".

Where is the science, the inquiry, the formulation of hypotheses and their refutation open to scrutiny by every rational being? Or even the pre-scientific stumbling towards naiive inductions? Even with the dumbed down nu labour eduction system of 2008 one can find lots of 12 year olds have a better grip of scientific endeavour.

So thanks Lester for telling us what all that is really about - history and gardening. What you didn't mention is how much it's costing. And whether that Titmarsh fellow is going to do the TV commentary.

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Not Exactly...

It's not one chance in 5 million, it's 5 million chances in one landing area. As large as the area is, that's still not an insignificant risk.

One chance in 5 million would be the odds of hitting any particular one of those rocks - not at all the same thing.

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Coat

re 'not exactly' -- Discworld

"It's a million to one chance, innit?"

So five times more likely to totally wreck the whole lot in one go.

Mine's the one with 'wizzard' on the back

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Martian snapped on ski run... Lander banned as no ski pass profered..

Its life Jim JUST as we know it...

Sorry ;-)

couldn't resist...

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I calculate... (though I could be wrong...)

So... 100km * 20km landing ellipse. That's 1.5 billion square metres. 5 million rocks in that area... That's 300 per square metre. (So I think some NASA folks have been exaggerating!) The lander itself occupies approx 1.5 square metres. So that's 450 of these rocks within the area of the lander. If they were evenly distibuted, it's one "rock" per 36 square centimetres. Given that each of the lander's three feet undoubtedly occupy approximately the same area....

"The chances of this thing landing unscathed on Mars, are a million to one, he said. Aaaaaaaaaa aaaaaaaa aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa."

So either some NASA-type boffins are really making it sound worse than it is, or those mission-threatening "rocks" could be more accurately described as "small stones".

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Rocks

Plankmeister.. you did the wrong math.. its 5mil / 15bil.. works out to about 0.003 rocks per square meter.

And what is the definition of a *rock* anyway..? pebbles..? stones..? boulders..?

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Coat

you *are* wrong

You have it backwards. It's .003 rock/m^2, or one rock for every 300 square meters. I think they can find some flat ground in there.

Of course nowhere do they say what the average cross-sectional area of the rocks is, or whether it can be carried by a swallow. Given the thinness of the Martian air, I'm guessing no. Not a European or African swallow, anyway. Maybe a Martian swallow, though.

mine's the coat of armour, not all covered with s**t.

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Coat

I had my doubts...

...about being correct. I also arrived at the same 0.003, but in my slightly pickled state interpreted this as one rock per 3mm^2. Which would be ridiculous. So I magically re-worked my calculation until I had something that was more reasonable.

Oh well... Mine's the one with "Maths n00b" written on the back.

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How do they know it is Mars

Could be the Australian Outback for all we know.

I have been to those places that were photographed. They just crop out the pubs and service stations.

Oh yeah and man didn't land on the moon.

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Paris Hilton

Should have asked the expert

Paris, because she knows where the rocks are...

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re:How do they know it is Mars

Well you can triangulate the radio signals, pretty hard to fake, really...........

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Statisitically significant..............

On the other hand, the chances of winning the UK Lottery are about 14 million to one, but someone manages it most weeks.

Were back to lies, damn lies and statistics, I see.

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