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Archives: Phobos 1999

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     Phobos 1999
     Jupiter 1998
     Europa 1997

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The Mission Patch for 1999The mission to Phobos blasted off at 1318 hrs EST, on Tuesday, March 2nd, 1999. The (then) newly-constructed shuttle performed flawlessly, and the astronauts arrived in the Hawking shortly thereafter. Except for the fact that the shuttle's exhaust unexpectedly set off fire alarms, the launch went according to plan.

The first day's activities consisted mainly of settling in and beginning experiments. The Hawking arrived in Mars orbit, and then proceeded to land on the dark side of Phobos. Among the experiments started on the first day was a study of capillary action, a study of the effects of Mozart's music on the human psyche, a comparison of crystal growth rates as opposed to saturation levels, and a test of the effect of music on exercise.

A Picture of PhobosOn the second day, activity intensified. The Hawking began to experience extreme seismic activity occurring in cycles of approximately four and a half hours. These "Phobos-quakes" were determined to have been caused by the heating and cooling of Phobos as it passed into or out of the sun-side of Mars. As well, the astronauts undertook an EVA (extra-vehicular activity) to collect surface samples, and to try to repair the robot camera, whose power supply had been sheared off in the landing. As well, the astronauts continued their previous day's experiments, and began some new psychological ones.

The tremors continued into the third day, culminating in a massive quake at 3:45 PM, and then a series of large aftershocks. There was no damage to the habitat, but the astronauts were shaken. Two more EVAs were performed, during which more samples were collected and a map of the surface produced. Shortly afterwards, headset communications were disrupted by an unknown source, and two emergency EVAs were conducted to attempt to remedy the situation. The first was to repair the robot camera in order to survey the surface for any materials which might have been causing the interference, and the second was to find and contain the piece of radioactive material which had been the source of the problems

Friday was the last day of the mission. By then the Hawking had lifted off of the surface of Phobos, and so tremors were no longer a concern. No problems were experienced during the flight home, and the astronauts successfully completed their experiments. At 1315 hrs EST, the shuttle arrived back on Earth to cheers from the mission controllers, bringing a successful close to this year's mission.

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