Thursday, May 8, 2008

Phoenix Special > Live Q'n'A with Michel Denis and Peter Schmitz



This thread is now closed.
Stuart Atkinson, Nicholas Previsich and I, personally, wish to thank Michel Denis and Peter Schmitz for all the precious information shared and to give also thanks to all of you who participated with questions.


This is, once more, Live Q’n’A Day at spacEurope and this is the post where things will take place.
Today, instead of the usual one guest show, we will count with the presence of duo willing to answer the always tricky questions of spacEurope’s readers.
Live from European Space Operations Centre at Darmstadt, Germany, Michel Denis, Head of the MARS EXPRESS Mission Operations Unit, and Mars Express-Phoenix Service Manager, Peter Schmitz, will be here reading your questions and talking about all the activities related with Phoenix that the European mission will perform and that you may read about in a

previously published post.

Although our guests will arrive and be at your disposal at 12PM UTC, the Q’n’A doors will open to the readers one hour before (11AM UTC), you will know that when you find the “now live” information in this post’s header or in the right column of this blog.
I, and Stuart Atkinson, spacEurope resident columnist, will be here welcoming you, making you feel at home and hosting your questions before the arrival of Denis and Schmitz.

If you are not a newbie to this spacEurope feature then you already know how to proceed, if not, please read the
roadmap posted Tuesday, after doing so we count with your presence here, where the action will take place!

17 days to Mars!


Onward!


EDITOR'S NOTE: Don't forget that you only have now 10 DAYS to send your entries for spacEurope/Phoenix Outreach Competition! More information HERE. Bring the kids!

54 comments:

Rui Borges said...

Dear readers, this is Rui Borges, spacEurope editor, and this Live Q’n’A is now officialy open to your participation.

Welcome and feel free to drop your words. Our guests will arrive at 1200PM UTC.
Remember that time is limited but we’re all here expecting that all your questions get the correspondent answer from Michel Denis and Peter Schmitz.
Enjoy!

Helping me with the task will be Stuart Atkinson, spacEurope’s resident columnist.
Are you there Stu? How’s the weather there at Cumbria? Here in Sintra we’re experiencing one more of those strange Spring days...rain all over the place...

Stu said...

Hi Rui... everyone...

The weather here in the beautiful south lakes town of Kendal is SCORCHING hot...

Wow, I sounded like a presenter phoning in a result on the Eurovision Song Contest there...!

Looking forward to the arrival of our special guetsts, and some great questions too... hard to believe that we'll - hopefully - be seeing brand new pictures of a whole new part of Mars in just a couple of weeks...

Rui Borges said...

Good to have here!
Speaking of Eurovision...and while I prepare some tortilla sandwiches to go along with the Q'n'A...what will HRSC, the camera onboard Mars Express be able to capture during Phoenix's approach?...
Guess our guests will clarify that for us in about 40 minutes. :-)

Ricardo said...

Hi Rui and Stuart, this is Ricardo from Madrid.

Here goes my question for the guests:
What is the lander pointing mode designed by MEX team at ESOC, under NASA request?
Does this mean that MEX can, if something happens to assume the control of the mission?

Gracias!

Rui Borges said...

Welcome Ricardo!
30 minutes to see what is our guests' take on your question.

And you guys just lurking over there...don't be shy and participate! :-)

Stu said...

Wow, that's a pretty terrifying thought Ricardo! Look forward to the answer to that question...

I'm very interested to hear what ESA's policy will be re image release after Phoenix lands... are there plans to quickly release any images taken by MEX, or will there be a delay? A lot of people will be very excited to see those pictures, and it will certainly be a major PR success for ESA if they can release pictures quickly...

Stu said...

... and still on the subject of images, are there any new or recent MEX images of "Green Valley", the landing site for Phoenix, that we might be seeing as landing day approaches?

Diogo said...

Diogo from Lisbon

I have one question concerning two instruments onboard...
SPICAM and PFS will be active during EDL scrutinizing the atmosphere of Mars, what sort of data are we expecting from before and after the passage of Phoenix through the martian atmosphere? Considerable changes?
In which way can the observations eventually done by SPICAM and PFS help us in future missions?

Thank you.

Stu said...

Welcome Diogo, good to have you here!

Good questions already, but let's have some more... :-)

Rui Borges said...

Your wish is my command Stu...
Here goes:

MELACOM (which was designed for Beagle 2) will be used for the first time…is this correct?
IS it possible to tell us in what consists the high-speed slew required? And what kind of additional data can MELACOM provide that Oddyssey and MRO can’t?

Denis + Schmitz said...

Hello dear Mars enthusiasts! We are here.

Rui Borges said...

Michel Denis and Peter Schmitz...
A pleasure to have you both onboard spacEurope!
Thank you for taking the time to answer the questions that our readers have in their sleeves.
May you enjoy this hour as much as I am sure we will.
Looks like you have already some work to do...
May the Q’n’A begin!

Stu said...

Hi guys! Thank you SO much for joining us here! We really appreciate you taking the time to talk to us and answer our questions! :-)

Denis + Schmitz said...

We saw a few questions on the pointing.
During EDL, MEX will follow with the Melacom antenna the exact trajectory of Phoenix, util landing. For this we need to slew the SC 0.3 degree/second, doent sound much but this is twice the operational usual speed.

Denis + Schmitz said...

During th on surface passes , we will keep Melacom pointed towardds PHX within a 35 degree cone as a trade off between link margins and acceptable slew rates - they would be even higher than in EDL at these low altitudes.

Rui Borges said...

Denis and Schmitz, maybe it would be better to get the already posted questions answered by order of arrival while new ones don't show up.

Denis + Schmitz said...

To answer the HRSC question

HRSC is hoping to catch a few (3-4) pixels of the fireball entering the Martian Atmosphere with the Super Resulution Channel while the probe is above the Limb as seen from MEX.

Anonymous said...

Hello! This is Nick Previsich. Sorry for my tardiness...it's 5 am here in Los Angeles, CA.

Gentlemen, I would like to know how the comm integration effort with Phoenix was accomplished. Were there any substantial difficulties?

Marco - Portugal said...

Thank you Rui for giving us room for this :-)

Here's one more:

Will there be the need for additional orbital adjustments? When will we know that for sure?

Marco, Portugal

Rui Borges said...

Nick! You made it this time! Good to know that! The crew is onboard! (Nick is one of spacEurope's resident columnists)

Benvindo Marco!

D+S, 3/4 pixels? Sounds like a great images from MEX to check ahead...:-)

Denis + Schmitz said...

What is the lander pointing mode designed by MEX team at ESOC, under NASA request?

Answer: There are two different pointings for PHX:
1. During EDL, MEX will follow with the Melacom antenna the exact trajectory of Phoenix, util landing. For this we need to slew the SC 0.3 degree/second, doent sound much but this is twice the operational usual speed.

2. During th on surface passes , we will keep Melacom pointed towardds PHX within a 35 degree cone as a trade off between link margins and acceptable slew rates - they would be even higher than in EDL at these low altitudes.


Does this mean that MEX can, if something happens to assume the control of the mission?
MEX acts as a 2nd back-up to ODY and MRO. Should both NASA orbiters be unavailable (very unlikely!) MEX could relay some PHX data back to earth (Return Link) and relay the commands from JPL to the Lander (Forward Link)

Stu said...

Morning Nick! Grab a strong coffee and stop yawning! ;-) Very interesting answers already... looking forward to those "fireball" images...

Rui Borges said...

Regarding the fireball issue (we're all already thinking about that aren't we?...) and the answers regarding the pointing mode I have one additional question...where will MEx "be" located witnessing Phoenix's arrival?

Anonymous said...

Hey, Rui! Good to be here, but only got a few minutes....gotta go to work. :(

This question may be beyond the scope of the discussion, but have to ask: Have ESA & NASA established a firm UHF protocol for all future lander-to-orbiter comms, as well as a reciprocal agreement to equip all future orbiters with compliant transceivers?

Anonymous said...

Hey, Stu! Yep, throwing down the coffee as I 'speak'; nice to 'see' you !:)

Rui Borges said...

Nick, I would complement your last question with something more, are the 'delta-DOR' measurements to be taken at Cebreros and New Norcia only the beggining of a regular cooperation or is this just an exception?

Denis + Schmitz said...

Q: ...are there plans to quickly release any images taken by MEX, or will there be a delay?

A: HRSC Images taken by MEX during EDL will be delayed by a few days. The imager data will not be dumped with high priority because:
- The routine science mission continues
- Main priority is on MELACOM data supporting PHX directly
- SPICAM observations on the Mars Atmosphere during EDL is possibly more likely to succeed than the HRSC few pixels. So PRs will be made ad hoc based on the combinatinon of the actual results obtained.

Q: A lot of people will be very excited to see those pictures, and it will certainly be a major PR success for ESA if they can release pictures quickly
A: Quick release of pictures and sucess annoucement is NASA's job: this is their mission. Of course, we and our PR people are also very excited, and as mentioned above there is a lot that can be obtained from the MEX data.

Anonymous said...

I would hope for the former. We (meaning the entire planetary exploration community) had better prioritze mutual support; it just makes all kinds of sense!

Denis + Schmitz said...

Q: are there any new or recent MEX images of "Green Valley", the landing site for Phoenix, that we might be seeing as landing day approaches?
A: HRSC has been used in the past months to observe the selected landing site. On a much shorter timescale, the Planetary Fourier Spectrometer PFS will observe the atmosphere of Mars in the week preceding the landing, and may provide quick return information to JPL.

Anonymous said...

Denis, disregarding the transmission lag, how quickly can PFS update atmospherics? This seems like a new and very useful capability.

Stu said...

"HRSC has been used in the past months to observe the selected landing site."

That's good to know :-) Are those pictures available online yet? (apologies if I've missed seeing them go up).

Diogo said...

Thanks for answering!

If this is permitted I would like to make one more question, there were some tests taking place with the Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, what was the objective and what was the result of it?

Diogo

Denis + Schmitz said...

Q: SPICAM and PFS will be active during EDL scrutinizing the atmosphere of Mars, what sort of data are we expecting from before and after the passage of Phoenix through the martian atmosphere?

A: actually PFS is active in the week before EDL but not during EDL. Spicam and HRSC are active during EDL.


Q: Considerable changes?

A: the Spicam science team rates very high the probablility of detecting atmospheric changes - also, their instrument is very sensitive and detected the first aurorae on Mars a few years ago.


Q: In which way can the observations eventually done by SPICAM and PFS help us in future missions?

A: PFS data can be used to reconstruct the characteristics of the atmosphere shortly before landing (and in the orbit after landing), and Spicam during landing. These can be correlated to the performance of the Entry and Descent system. Think about the failed Beagle-2 landing: if we would have had such observations, one of the possible theories for the Beagle-2 loss (mismatch between dimensioning of the chutes and atmosphere density on the landing day) could possibly be confirmed, or not.

Rui Borges said...

Dear readers, our time is running short.
Any additional questions should be sent as quickly as possible to permit our guests to answer them.

Denis + Schmitz said...

Q: MELACOM (which was designed for Beagle 2) will be used for the first time…is this correct?

A:no. Melacom has been used several tens of times with the Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity in 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2008, the last 2 years to prepare for Phoenix arrival and on-surface support


Q: IS it possible to tell us in what consists the high-speed slew required?

A: Using almost the maximum capacity of the 4 reaction wheels on MEX, we are able to point the centre of the Melacom antenna towards the predicted PHX trajectory.


Q:And what kind of additional data can MELACOM provide that Oddyssey and MRO can’t?

A: For EDL, MEX provides similar data to MRO. On surface, the data and command relay capability of MEX is similar to the NASA orbiters, but at different overflight times due to the different orbit - so it is complementary.

Denis + Schmitz said...

We can extend our session to answer the questions raised so far - and then we will have literally to go back to Phoenix preparation!

Rui Borges said...

That is very appreciated Denis and Schmitz, so we will no longer accept more questions from here on and just sit reading what you guys back there at ESOC have to tell us... :-)
And then off to work! Or lunch... ;-)

Stu said...

Thanks, we really appreciate that. (Don't crash the probe because of us, tho!! ;-) )

Denis + Schmitz said...

Q: I would like to know how the comm integration effort with Phoenix was accomplished. Were there any substantial difficulties

A: theoretically Melacom is comatible with the RF unit CE 505 on board PHX (the saem as on the Rovers). However there were no ground tests possible, so we have run an in flight test campaign with the Rovers, which have their own mission requirements constraints (even sand storms on Mars in August 2007 delayed the first tests!) Actually we are very thankful to the MER teams for lending their rovers for this validation.
Also on ground, the interfaces between MEX and Phoenix had to be defined set up and validated very carefully. This is not as trivial as for the other MEX payloads, in particular because of differences of planning lead times (weeks for MEX, hours for the Lander). Maybe this was the most challenging part.

Denis + Schmitz said...

Q: Will there be the need for additional orbital adjustments?

A: Most likely no. The MEX orbit was phased very accurately end 2007 to match the observation positions required on May 25th, 2008. Only if PHX would change signficantly their trajectory on 10th May (Trajectory Correction Manoeuvre 4), would MEX have to adapt its own trajectory. This is not very likely to be required, but everything has been prepared to be able to do it if needed.


Q: When will we know that for sure?

A: Well, after PHX TCM-4, in a few days, on May 12th exactly. Crossing fingers....

Phil Stooke said...

Building on the question of HRSC images of Green Valley - is there (or will there soon be) a HRSD DEM of the site?

Rui Borges said...

Looks like we are only missing a couple of answers:
Location of MEX during EDL, possible UHF protocol and Delta-DOR and a final one regarding HRSC DEM (that was a close call, Phil!Let's see if it is still possible to get an answer to it...).

Denis + Schmitz said...

Q: where will MEx "be" located witnessing Phoenix's arrival

A: MEX will acquire the PHX signal 3 minutes after the Cruise stage separation (distance between the 2 spacecraft 4000 km), and will keep tracking until 3 minutes after landing (if permitted by the very low elevation seen from the Lnader - below 2 degrees after landing, hopefully there is no big rock in the way). At closest approach during tracking, MEX is at about 350 km, at landing time 800 km, and at horizon (absolute transmission limit) already at 2000 km.

Rui Borges said...

Wow! Those are impressive distances! Never thought MEX would be THAT close from Phoenix...thanks for the juicy details! :-)

Denis + Schmitz said...

Q: Have ESA & NASA established a firm UHF protocol for all future lander-to-orbiter comms, as well as a reciprocal agreement to equip all future orbiters with compliant transceivers?

A: yes this already exists and is used with the MERS and PhX: the CCSDS Proximity-1 protocol. The challenge of the upcoming years is to consolidate it further and make it usable for mission with more and more demands on data volumes, reliability, security, and complexity of the overall interplanetary network. Proxy-1 is maybe to this future consolidated protocol what Arpanet is to the Internet!

Denis + Schmitz said...

Q: are the 'delta-DOR' measurements to be taken at Cebreros and New Norcia only the beggining of a regular cooperation or is this just an exception?

A: the cooperation on Delta DOR has already started in 2003 when NASA DSN supported accurate orbit detemination when MEX arrived at Mars. Now the ESA stations are equipped, the teams are trained, and the cooperation can go go both ways. The ESA PHX delta-DOR allow us to return the favour.

Denis + Schmitz said...

Q: disregarding the transmission lag, how quickly can PFS update atmospherics?

A: when the data has arrived at ESOC, and assuming the manning is ensured on all sites, it is a matter of hours.

Rui Borges said...

From your two latest answers we can only be confident on good times ahead regarding cooperation in the space exploration field...
Great to read the comparison between Proxy-1 as Arpanet from you. :-)

Denis + Schmitz said...

Q: HRSC has been used in the past months to observe the selected landing site. ... Are those pictures available online yet

A: Stu, I dont think they are on the ESA website, but the HRSC website provides large data sets with a quick turnover - you could check there.

Denis + Schmitz said...

Q: there were some tests taking place with the Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, what was the objective and what was the result of it?

A: The objective of these tests were to verify the MELACOM capabilities and validate the ground interfaces for EDL and on-surface operations.
MELACOM has been tested in different operating modes (open-loop RF recording, Return link and Forward & Return Links) Different bitrates, different commanding scenarios and MEX-Payload interference tests have been conducted.

Denis + Schmitz said...

Q: is there (or will there soon be) a HRSD DEM of the site?

A: Phil honestly I dont know - if HRSC could provide a DEM with an accuracy commensurate with the lander dimensions (so to speak the landscape around it) , this would be wonderful.

Rui Borges said...

Dear Denis and Schmitz, I believe there are no more questions available...would you like to share a final thought with all the Mars enthusiasts in the area? :-)

Denis + Schmitz said...

Thank you all for being such an interactive, interested, enthusiastic community! The next Mars Express communications pass is already waiting.... Over and Out, Denis and Schmitz.

PS: a final thought true on Mars and on Earth: « Esse est percipi » (George Berkeley )

Rui Borges said...

Michel Denis and Peter Schmitz
This was really a pleasant hour and its correspondent almost-one-additional-hour extension... :-)

Stuart Atkinson, Nicholas Previsich and I, personally, wish to thank you for all the precious information shared with the public!
All the luck and success for Mars Express and you both personally.
May everything go perfectly as planned for May 25, we’ll be here crossing our fingers!

17 Days to Mars!:-)

Thanks to everyone who participated, we will return soon with another spacEurope Live Q’n’A!

« Esse est percipi »?
Perfect! We'll have a read won't we? :-)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Berkeley