Friday, June 20, 2008


Bright Chunks At Phoenix Lander's Mars Site Must Have Been Ice

NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/Max Planck Institute
Press Release June 19, 2008

Dice-size crumbs of bright material have vanished from inside a trench where they were photographed by NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander four days ago, convincing scientists that the material was frozen water that vaporized after digging exposed it.

"It must be ice," said Phoenix Principal Investigator Peter Smith of the University of Arizona, Tucson. "These little clumps completely disappearing over the course of a few days, that is perfect evidence that it's ice. There had been some question whether the bright material was salt. Salt can't do that."

The chunks were left at the bottom of a trench informally called "Dodo-Goldilocks" when Phoenix's Robotic Arm enlarged that trench on June 15, during the 20th Martian day, or sol, since landing. Several were gone when Phoenix looked at the trench early today, on Sol 24. Also early today, digging in a different trench, the Robotic Arm connected with a hard surface that has scientists excited about the prospect of next uncovering an icy layer.

The Phoenix science team spent Thursday analyzing new images and data successfully returned from the lander earlier in the day. Studying the initial findings from the new "Snow White 2" trench, located to the right of "Snow White 1," Ray Arvidson of Washington University in St. Louis, co-investigator for the robotic arm, said, "We have dug a trench and uncovered a hard layer at the same depth as the ice layer in our other trench." On Sol 24, Phoenix extended the first trench in the middle of a polygon at the "Wonderland" site. While digging, the Robotic Arm came upon a firm layer, and after three attempts to dig further, the arm went into a holding position. Such an action is expected when the Robotic Arm comes upon a hard surface.

Meanwhile, the spacecraft team at Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver is preparing a software patch to send to Phoenix in a few days so scientific data can again be saved onboard overnight when needed. Because of a large amount a duplicative file-maintenance data generated by the spacecraft Tuesday, the team is taking the precaution of not storing science data in Phoenix's flash memory, and instead downlinking it at the end of every day, until the conditions that produced those duplicative data files are corrected.

"We now understand what happened, and we can fix it with a software patch," said Phoenix Project Manager Barry Goldstein of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena. "Our three-month schedule has 30 days of margin for contingencies like this, and we have used only one contingency day out of 24 sols. The mission is well ahead of schedule. We are making excellent progress toward full mission success."

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Phoenix Mars Lander Testing Sprinkle Technique

NASA Press Release

June 9, 2008 -- Engineers operating the Robotic Arm on NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander are testing a revised method for delivering soil samples to laboratory instruments on Phoenix's deck now that researchers appreciate how clumpy the soil is at the landing site. "We're a little surprised at how much this material is clumping together when we dig into it," said Doug Ming a Phoenix science team member from NASA's Johnson Space Center, Houston. The soil's physical properties are proving to be a challenge for getting a sample intended for one instrument to pass through a screen over a delivery opening. The instrument is the Thermal and Evolved-Gas Anaylzer, or TEGA, designed to bake and sniff samples to identify some key ingredients. The analyzer vibrated the screen for 20 minutes on Sunday but detected only a few particles getting through the screen, not enough to fill the tiny oven below. "We are going to try vibrating it one more time, and if that doesn't work, it is likely we will use our new, revised delivery method on another thermal analyzer cell," said William Boynton of the University of Arizona, lead scientist for the instrument. The arm delivered the first sample to TEGA on Friday by turning the scoop over to release its contents. The revised delivery method, which Phoenix is testing for the first time today, will hold the scoop at an angle above the delivery target and sprinkle out a small amount of the sample by vibrating the scoop. The vibration comes from running a motorized rasp on the bottom of the scoop. Phoenix used the arm Sunday to collect a soil sample for the spacecraft's Optical Microscope. Today's plans include a practice of the sprinkle technique, using a small amount of soil from the sample collected Sunday. If that goes well, the Phoenix team assembled at the University of Arizona plans to sprinkle material from the same scoopful onto the microscope later this week.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

The Official Theme Song for Lunar Landings

The commercial for Dicsovery Channel's series "When We Left Earth" uses the Stones' "Gimmie Shelter" to hype the show. Did Tom Brokaw's recent "1968" have a leftover song on their score or something?
Sorry, but when you see those Lunar Modules pitch,roll and yaw in the Big Black, then descend towards the Moon. The usual cast of mega popstars like the Stones don't cut it.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Dig & Scoop Analysis: Place Your Bets

Based on the mass spectrometer readings from the Mars Phoenix lander, will regolith samples from the White Layer processed by TEGA consist of :

A: Water Ice

B: Salts

C: Gypsum

D: All of the above

E: None of the Above

Mars Phoenix says "Dig it!"

Three locations to the right of the test dig area are identified for the first samples to be delivered to the Thermal and Evolved Gas Analyzer (TEGA), the Wet Chemistry Lab (WCL), and the Optical Microscope (OM) on NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander. These sampling areas are informally labeled "Baby Bear", "Mama Bear", and "Papa Bear" respectively. This image was taken on the seventh day of the Mars mission, or Sol 7 (June 1, 2008) by the Surface Stereo Imager aboard NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Has Mars Phoenix hit water ice with it's thrusters?

Yesterday, interpretation of this photo from Mars by JPL scientists infers that the Mars Phoenix lander's hydrazine thrusters exposed more of the subsurface ice layer than the robotic arm ever could.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

PHX lander photo shows possible water ice

According to JPL, as shown in this false color photo, the diamond shaped patterns along the Martian surface, where the Mars Phoenix lander touched down on Sunday, are similar to those found in Antarctica.
But it will take the Phoenox lander to dig and analyse the soil to prove it.

Monday, May 26, 2008

How Cool Is This ???

Another chunk of history was made during the landing of the Phoenix onto the planet Mars . At the left, is a photo from the HiRise Reconnaisance Satellite, which orbits Mars.

What did it photograph? Nothing short than the parachute descent of the Mars Phoenix lander.

It's the white spots in the photo.

Phoenix arrrives on mars & begins "shoegazing"

Sunday, May 25, 2008

T-4 hrs to Mars. Press release from JPL.

PASADENA, Calif. -- NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander sped on Sunday morning toward its arrival at Mars, as the tug of the Red Planet's gravity accelerated the craft during the final day of its trip from Earth to Mars. "Mars is literally pulling on our spacecraft, and at the same time it is pulling on our emotions," Phoenix Principal Investigator Peter Smith, of the University of Arizona, Tucson, said early Sunday afternoon. "We are excited at how close we are right now to beginning our study of a site where Martian water ice will be within our reach, after all these years of preparations. Our science mission begins as the spacecraft settles into its new home on Mars." The spacecraft's speed relative to Mars increased from 6,300 miles per hour at 8:30 a.m. Pacific Time to 8,500 mph at 12:30 p.m., headed for a speed higher than 12,000 mph before reaching the top of the Martian atmosphere. Phoenix was on track for anticipated entry into the atmosphere at 4:30p.m. Pacific Time and reaching the surface at 4:38 p.m., although confirmation of those events comes no sooner than 15 minutes, 20 seconds later, due to the time needed for radio signals to travel from Mars to Earth. Mission controllers decided Saturday night and Sunday morning to forgo the last two opportunities for adjusting the spacecraft's trajectory. "We are so well on course that those adjustments were not necessary," said Phoenix Project Manager Barry Goldstein of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. The most challenging part of the entire mission, getting from the top of the atmosphere to a safe landing on three legs, still lies ahead. Internationally, only five of the 11 attempts to land a spacecraft on Mars have succeeded. The Phoenix mission is led by Smith, with project management at JPL. The development partnership is with Lockheed Martin, Denver. International contributions are from the Canadian Space Agency; the University of Neuchatel, Switzerland; the universities of Copenhagen and Aarhus, Denmark; the Max Planck Institute, Germany; and the Finnish Meteorological Institute.

T minus Eight Hours & Change before...

Image: NASA

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The End of the Beginning for the Phoenix Lander

The Martian lander Phoenix, the first American spacecraft to be run by an American university and not a government agency, has now entered the critical Entry Descent and Landing phase of the mission.

According to mission control at the University of Arizona, tomorrow afternoon, the craft will enter the thin Martian atmosphere, accelerate to approximately 13K mi/hr, decelerate and land in an area known as Region D; a 620 square mile area, 800 feet deep, located in the Scandia Calles region of Vastitus Borealis near the Martian North Pole.

We will have confirmation of landing during acquition of signal at 4:53 PDT.
NASA says the weather at Region D looks clear, with temperatures ranging from -110 to a daytime high of -28 F.

If all goes well, within 60 seconds of landing, the Mars Surface Operations phase begins and will end with the destruction of the lander during the winter, when the spacecraft will become encased in the expanding North Pole.

Hopefully, before Phoenix meets its icy end, its scientific instrument packages will relay to the science teams back on Earth whether Mars contains frozen water and any organic compounds under the surface.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

New Journal Blog: Dread Mars

As I have always said, this blog promotes the use of cannabis hemp for a sustainable Martian community.

Unfortunately, where there's discussions on hemp, it's more celebrity cousin Marijuana gets into the act. Because the US Controlled Substances Act has linked the two together, I cannot.

So I've created a separate blog for just such a purpose.

' Dread Mars - I Marstafari Journal' is more relaxed in style, so to speak, than MNC. So now you get to see how both members of the Cannabacae family may fair on the fourth planet from the Sun.

Dread Mars can be located at

Saturday, May 17, 2008

MARSTAFARI: A 21c interplanetary ideology

I have been a member of the US Democratic Party since I was old enough to vote. Right now that party has a choice between a party hack and a rock star.

Neither give a shit about Mars.

So what would happen if the concept of "Martian" became a socio-political party? In that context, every political decision made in American government will be one that benefits the move to Mars, no matter the issue. notwithstanding, there's no way humans can "Mayflower" themselves to another planet. Besides matters of International Law to contend with, there's always the fundamental requirement of cold hard cash. Remember that movie " The Right Stuff "? An astronaut rhetorically asks the german rocket scientists what make the rocket fly, and he yells at them: "Funding. That's what. No bucks, no Buck Rogers."

If those in power are ideologically committed to a Martian movement, then will there be a chance for ALL people to leave the Earth for Mars if they so desire to do so. Laws can be revised and cash can be found.

Many have had input in to the NASA system: The Planetary Society, The Mars Society, Ad Astra, etc. They have been around for several administrations. Now ask yourself how much closer are we as private citizens to leaving Earth?

This then is the Martian Agenda mentioned in the subtitle of this blog. And irregardless of how kooky anyone in the mainstream thinks about it, I hearby resign from the Democratic Party and will go to voter registration and register myself as MARSTAFARI.

Remember: it worked for the Religious Right. It worked for the Greens. It can work for the...Butterscotch.

At home with the Martians

Monday, May 12, 2008

Hemp Milk Products Fueled Growth of Hemp Food Market in 2007

Mars needs Cannabis...for food, clothing, paper products and medical therapies.

Here is a March 2008 press release from the Hemp Industries Association.

Portland, OR — As leading North American brands that make hemp food and body care products with hemp seed and oil exhibit at the Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, CA from March 14-16, new retail data released today proves that these brands are racking up record sales once again. Hemp milk is the main driving force behind this accelerated sales growth. The strong sales have occurred against the backdrop of state-licensed hemp farmers in North Dakota fighting a high stakes legal battle against DEA to grow hemp seed. The new sales data lends credibility to the assertion by U.S. farmers' that they are being left out of the lucrative hemp market that Canadian farmers have cashed in on for exactly ten years. Canada re-legalized hemp production on March 12, 1998.

The sales data, collected by the market research firm SPINS, was obtained from natural food retailers only, excluding Whole Foods Market and mass-market food and pharmacy stores, and thus under-represents actual sales by a factor of two to three. The total hemp foods market is estimated to be $20-30 million. The new report shows that hemp food sales grew by 55% over the previous year (from December 2007 to December 2008), or by $3.4 million, to a total of $9.7 million.

Hemp milk is a refreshing alternative to nut- and grain-based beverages as well as dairy beverages. Grain-based beverages are often lacking in Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs), protein and minerals, unless they are fortified. Nut-based milks and dairy beverages are nutritionally better, but more and more people, especially children, are developing allergies to dairy products and tree nuts and groundnuts.

"We wanted to offer a great-tasting, healthy product that we can feel good about giving our own kids," says Christina Volgyesi, President of Living Harvest ( "As more and more consumers begin searching the shelves for alternative dairy products that are enjoyable to drink and contain unprocessed ingredients, we thought that early 2007 was the perfect time to introduce Hempmilk, a real essential and balanced nutritional beverage that the whole family can enjoy."

"We expect the double-digit growth of the hemp food sector to continue in 2007, now that hemp milk is finally available to waiting consumers," says Eric Steenstra, HIA Executive Director. "I tried all of the flavors available last year at Expo East in Baltimore, and they were just amazing, as were their nutritional profiles. In 2006 we predicted that the double-digit growth of the hemp food sector to continue through 2007, especially since hemp milk would finally be available to waiting consumers, and we were correct" says Steenstra.

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and Statistics Canada data show that the quantity of hemp seed exports increased 300% from 2006 to 2007. Hemp oil exports kept pace, with an 85% increase in quantity. Hemp fiber exports showed encouraging progress, with a 65% increase in quantity. According to the Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance farmers are expected to grow 10,000 to 15,000 acres of hemp this year.

NASA/JPL Phoenix Mission media briefing

by Jet Propulsion Laboratory May 13, 2008 WASHINGTON

NASA has scheduled a media briefing Tuesday, May 13, at 8 a.m. PDT, to discuss the challenges, risks and science opportunities of the scheduled May 25 landing of the Phoenix Mars Lander. Officials also will provide details on the Phoenix landing site.

The briefing will take place in the NASA Headquarters' James E. Webb Auditorium, 300 E St., S.W., Washington. It will be carried live on NASA Television and on the Web.

Phoenix is expected to conduct a three-month mission studying a northern arctic site on the Red Planet. Phoenix will dig down to an ice-rich layer expected to lie within arm's reach of the surface of Mars. It will analyze the water and soil for evidence about climate cycles and investigate if the environment there has ever been favorable for microbial life.

Participants will be: Ed Weiler, associate administrator, Science Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters, WashingtonDoug McCuistion, director, Mars Exploration Program, NASA HeadquartersPeter Smith, Phoenix principal investigator, University of Arizona, TucsonRay Arvidson, Phoenix landing site working group chairman, Washington University in St. LouisBarry Goldstein, Phoenix project manager, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

For more information about NASA TV, streaming video, and downlink and schedule information, visit: NASA TV

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Phoenix: 23 days & a Wake Up

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Washington Univ. St. Louis/Univ. of Arizona via

In just under 23 days, the Phoenix lander will land on Mars' North Polar Region. The landing foorprint is the area marked D on the false color photo on the left.


I have had this blog for almost a year now. I think that's long enough for the rhetoric phase.

Don't you?

Now comes development of products to serve the Martian Agenda. Everything from cartoons, concrete and even beer and coffee. Plus will follow the rest of the Phoenix project, and see what's in the water. Will it be easily filterable to drink, use for industrial commodities like shelters, made into breathable air for everyone, and so on.

The rest of the year looks like a cool one...

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Martian Solidarity on "Talk Like a Commie Day"

As old school Pirates were heavily involved in the Slave Trade, I don't celebrate " Talk Like a Pirate Day". So I submit this for your aproval as another geek holiday: May 001 as "Talk Like a Commie Day". And here's my submission to you.

" Greetings comrades for the Red Planet:

"We artistic agro-hempsters of the Red Planet offer our solidarity in your struggles whatever they may be. Never forget that all struggles are interconnected, both on and off your home planet.

"This is the sol to bang vigorously the shoe of discontent upon the surface of the table of oppression. Make post-industrial society understand that the time has come for Martian emigres to UNITE and MOVE off this damp blue prison planet! "

Sunday, March 16, 2008

CA Hemp Bill AB 1147 Vetoed

Months ago, my home computer lost its valiant battle against entropy.
While waiting to afford a new one, I went to the bookstore and bought a copy of the March 2008 edition of High Times to see how the California Hemp Bill was progressing. After all, it’s not like any local news would cover a story like this.

In the Buzz section on page 18, three words said it all: Arnold Terminates Hemp. The bill is officially as dead as my PC.

So what happens next? True to form, cannabis hemp activists are trying again with the California Cannabis Hemp and Health Initiative 2008. This initiative, currently being petitioned by California ballot recipient committee # 1303604, is an act to amend California’s Health & Safety Code.

As posted on

Purpose of Act: This Act is an exercise of the police powers of the State for the protection of the safety, welfare, health, and peace of the people and the environment of the State, to protect the industrial and medicinal uses of cannabis hemp, to eliminate the unlicensed and unlawful cultivation, selling, and dispensing of cannabis hemp; and to encourage temperance in the consumption of cannabis hemp euphoric products. It is hereby declared that the subject matter of this Act involves, in the highest degree, the ecological, economic, social, and moral well-being and safety of the State and of all its people. All provisions of this Act shall be liberally construed for the accomplishment of these purposes: to respect human rights, to promote tolerance, and to end cannabis hemp prohibition.

In a press conference, Governor Schwarzenegger defended his veto of AB 1147 stating that law enforcement could’t tell the difference between hemp and marijuana, and it would be too costly to create education for the cops. .

Think about that statement for a minute.

Consider that for almost a century this same law enforcement has spent hundreds of millions of tax payer dollars eradicating marijuana in this country alone. And here in the early 21st century, drug cases are built on not only surveillance but sophisticated laboratory analysis as well.

So representatives of these same members of law enforcement have actually advised the governor of the state of California that after all this time and money, they are too ill-trained to tell the difference between hemp production and marijuana cultivation?

And that the Governor, a former body builder who built his career and fortune as an action movie star while simultaneously working on and receiving a MBA (not an honorary one, mind you). That this man who hyped his political aspirations to the voters of California as a tax reformer, would tolerate such a horrific Enron-like misuse of public funds, i.e. with all that cash down the drain that the cops (please pardon the old school pun) don’t know shit?

At this juncture, it would be so very easy to rip out a bombastic diatribe against this veto. But I can’t. See, when my PC took a dirt nap, I could have made the effort to go to the public library and used the Internet access there to keep current on this legislation, and then later post to this blog by e-mail from, say, an Internet cafe. I could have been more active in making connections with people in both the hemp and microsat space industries. I definitely could have been more committed in reading up and researching this project.

But I didn’t. Sure, while I was offline my personal life got complicated. But then again, who’s doesn’t?

With this new initiative on the horizon comes a new opportunity. Now is the time to re-evaluate my efforts thus far, and focus on what I can realistically do to promote this project on a sustainable level with whatever skills I have.

This’ll be fun!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Computer crash - posting to resume soon

Apologies for the delay in posting.

Please stand by.