ESA ready to assist NASA’s Phoenix mission

PARIS (UPI) — The European Space Agency says it is ready to help the U.S. space agency monitor the Phoenix spacecraft’s descent and landing on Mars this weekend.

The ESA said its Mars Express mission control team has completed major preparations for supporting the entry, descent and landing phases of the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Phoenix mission. The ESA’s Mars Express orbiting spacecraft will be pointed toward Phoenix’s planned entry trajectory and will record signals broadcast from the lander as it plunges into the Martian atmosphere.

That recorded data, ESA scientists said, will serve as a useful and potentially crucial back-up for NASA to compare Phoenix’s planned and actual descent profiles. Landing is planned for 7:53 p.m. EDT Sunday.

The European Space Agency said the mission marks the first time NASA has asked for operational support from the ESA’s two deep-space tracking stations, located in Cebreros, Spain, and New Norcia, Australia.

Copyright 2008 by United Press International
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