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Dallas Professor Helps Mission To Red Planet

The crew of a 920th Rescue Wing HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter conducts post-flight operations after supporting a NASA Delta II rocket launch from Kennedy Space Center just before 5:30 a.m. Aug. 4 at Patrick Air Force Base, Fla. Reservists from the 920th RQW are responsible for clearing the Eastern range before all space shuttle and rocket launches to ensure no boats are in the launch path. The lazy twist of smoke in the early-morning sky is all that remains from the trail left by the rocket, which carried the Phoenix spacecraft on the first leg of its trip to Mars' arctic plain. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Paul Flipse)
by Staff Writer
Dallas TX (SPX) Aug 08, 2007
Dr. John H. Hoffman, a space scientist at The University of Texas at Dallas, was on hand Saturday as the Delta II rocket carrying the Phoenix Mars lander lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Base for a 10-month long journey to the Red Planet. A physics professor and member of the University's William B. Hanson Center for Space Sciences, Hoffman is part of team of researchers lead by Dr. Peter Smith of the University of Arizona in Tucson who were selected in 2003 by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to lead an unmanned mission to Mars. The team, among other tasks, was asked to look for evidence of past habitability on Mars.

Phoenix, laden with sensors, is expected to land on the northern plains of the planet in June 2008. Once there, an arm on the lander will dig a trench in the Martian surface to look for water ice and other water-related substances.

The materials will be collected and analyzed in a series of small furnaces, and the effluents from the furnaces will be analyzed by a mass spectrometer system designed by Hoffman. The system will determine the presence of water and the mineralogical composition of soil samples.

In addition to performing sub-surface mineral studies, the UT Dallas spectrometer will analyze the atmosphere of Mars. If the planet had copious amounts of running water in the distant past, as channels on the surface indicate, the earlier climate was likely very different from that of today.

Hoffman, who received funding of approximately $4 million from NASA to build the system, has worked at UT Dallas and its predecessor research institution since 1966. He has designed and built scientific instruments that have flown on numerous exploration missions - both manned and unmanned - into space and to other planetary bodies and objects, including the moon, Venus and Halley's Comet.

Air Force Supports Launch Of NASA Mission To Mars
Air Force Supports Launch Of NASA Mission To Mars Cape Canaveral AFS FL (AFNS) - Members of the 45th Space Wing from Patrick Air Force Base, Fla., supported Aug. 4's successful launch from here of a NASA probe that will study Mars. NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander was launched at 5:26 a.m. Eastern time aboard a Delta II booster from Space Launch Complex 17-A at Cape Canaveral. Several units across the 45th SW played vital roles including providing weather forecasts, assisting with media relations and safety support.

The wing also provided a vast network of radar, telemetry, optical and communications instrumentation that helped facilitate a safe launch.

After a 422 million-mile journey, the Phoenix spacecraft should arrive in May 2008. It is scheduled to land in the arctic region of northern Mars and attempt to answer questions such as: Can the Martian arctic support life? What is the history of water at the polar landing site? How is the Martian climate affected by polar seasonal change?

"This launch was a great start for what should be a very exciting mission," said Brig. Gen. Susan J. Helms, the 45th SW commander. "Our Air Force launch crews effectively teamed with our NASA and contractor mission partners. We wish NASA continued success as the Phoenix spacecraft helps unlock the secrets of the red planet."

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NASA Sends Robotic Lander In Search Of Water And Life On Mars
Washington (AFP) Aug 04, 2007
A US space probe embarked Saturday on a 10 month journey to Mars, where it will dig through Martian soil in a search for signs of life in a frigid region of the Red Planet. The Phoenix Mars Lander separated from a Delta II rocket after blasting off into the dark sky at 5:36 am (0936 GMT) from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Powered by solar panels, Phoenix, whose launch was delayed by one day following bad weather, is scheduled to land on Mars on May 25, 2008, after traveling 680 million kilometers (422 million miles) through space.

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