After traveling 11 months and 470 million miles, NASA’s polar lander was suppose to touch down on the Red Planet at approximately 3:00pm EST. The Polar Lander using its onboard antennas was then suppose to relay its first transmission to Earth.
“This is not entirely unexpected, we did prepare for this,” Richard Cook, Mars Surveyor Operations Project Manager, told a press conference this afternoon. “I’m very confident that the Lander survived entry…We’re not giving up any time soon.”
The first transmission’s message is expected to reveal if there is any structural damage to the Lander after entering the Martian atmosphere. It will also take its first meteorology readings and possibly provide black and white images of the landing site.
After sending the first transmission, the Lander is expected to go into sleep mode, while recharging its batteries. Approximately five hours later, the Lander will reawaken to receive its first instructions from Earth. This will also be the first opportunity for NASA to communicate with the microlander probes, that were released into Mars’ atmosphere just prior to the Lander’s touching down.
The Lander is expected to transmit a second message before shutting down for the night.
The Polar Lander’s primary mission is to answer questions about the climate on Mars and what happened to the water that scientists believe cut stream beds on the planet’s surface. The mission is expected to last 90 days.