In December of 2006, Steve the Cat submitted his name for
inclusion on a DVD that the Planetary Society was compiling for
the Phoenix Mission to Mars. But Steve didn't stop there. His fascination
with Mars and NASA's Planetary Exploration Program has propelled
him to new heights. This blog is the story of Steve's great adventure.
the Cat is Back on Earth! December 25, 2008 -
3:45 am Mountain Time
Steve the Cat is back on Earth. Steve’s historic
trip to Mars came to a successful conclusion at 2:10 a.m. on Christmas
morning when his Fabergé Egg successfully touched down in the
desert salt flats of the Utah Test and Training
Steve poses with the Recovery Operations Science Team in the sterile
white room after he was extracted from his Fabergé Egg.
Steve made final reentry configurations to
his spacecraft at 9:57 p.m. on Christmas Eve. The egg plunged into
the Earth’s atmosphere four hours later and blazed a trail across
the western United States. The cat carrying egg had the highest
return speed (29,825 miles per hour) of any human or feline-made
reentry object to date. The spectacular sky show was visible from
central California through central Oregon, on through Nevada and
into Utah. Thousands of cats viewed the reentry from their human’s
windows before demanding a midnight snack to celebrate Steve’s
A critical element of the egg is its heat shield, which was embedded on the spacecraft’s blunt end. The shield protected the egg and its delicate cargo from the intense heat generated during Earth reentry. The heat shield is comprised of a special high-energy ablator PICA (Phenolic Impregnated Carbon Ablator) invented by NASA’s Ames Research Center.
A NASA DC-8 aircraft photographed Steve’s
reentry as his egg entered the atmosphere. Because of the aircraft’s
position along the reentry path it was able to maintain contact
with Steve during the entire reentry. A video sequence, taken using
a Xybion intensified camera, shows Steve’s egg glowing as its external
surface temperature reached over 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit. A long
plasma tail formed during the period of peak heating.
Video of Steve's Fabergé Egg reentering
seen from NASA's DC-8 aircraft.
“That has to be the longest cat tail ever seen!” exclaimed Steve as his egg’s external surface glowed as bright as the sun.
“That’s one cool cat” remarked mission control during what was the most dangerous portion of Steve’s entire trip to Mars. “He’s really earning his nip tonight!”
The drogue and main parachutes deployed at 2:00 a.m. and 2:05 a.m. respectively, and Steve gently touched down on Earth at 2:10 p.m. Three helicopters were immediately deployed and began capsule retrieval operations as soon as the egg was on the desert floor.
Steve's charred egg, with Steve still inside, is seen being transported
to a sterile white
room shortly after his successful touchdown in Utah.
The still warm egg was quickly delivered to a special white room, where it was opened by a team of project scientists. The team surprised Steve with his favorite feather toy when the egg was opened. After a few playful moments Steve quickly headed straight for the litter box.
Steve leaps with delight when he sees his favorite feather toy dangling
from the finger of one of the science team,
The Fabergé Egg and its precious cargo of Mars samples
and cat grown asparagus was stowed inside a special environmentally controlled
carrying case for transfer to the Johnson Space Center in Houston where
it will be examined. Scientists believe these precious samples will help
provide answers to fundamental questions about Mars and the behavior
of cats on other planetary bodies.
As a precaution, Steve will remain in quarantine for 2 weeks before finally returning to his humans in Moab, Utah.
Strange Sighting December
25, 2008 -
2:45 am Mountain Time
Steve captured this unusual image of an unidentified object
during his landing
sequence on Christmas morning. The red and green object appears blurred
in this image due to the large relative velocity between Steve's egg and the
object, which was headed north. Steve also reported hearing a metallic,
bell-like sound. Project scientists are still analyzing the incident.
Unidentified object sighted on Christmas morning.
Steve Approaches Earth December 24, 2008 - 11:10 am
Steve is now in th final hours of his mission.
If all goes well he will be on the ground in Utah in less than
14 hours. Steve reports that all systems are operating perfectly
and he is ready for some fresh catnip.
As the hours count down to reentry, Steve returned
Earth through a porthole in his Fabergé Egg.
The North American Aerospace Defense Command (Norad) is monitoring
trajectory as his egg nears Earth. They will monitor his entry
atmosphere and track his landing path through touchdown.
One Day Until Landing!!! December 23, 2008 - 1:20 pm Mountain Time
Steve is making final preparations for his return to Earth.
His egg is aligned perfectly for reentry during the predawn hours of
December 25th. Steve is still scheduled to enter the Earth's atmosphere
precisely at 1:56:39 a.m. MST.
*** Stay tuned for Steve's Christmas landing! ***
Making Plans for Earth Landing December 7, 2008 -
6:45 pm Mountain Time
Steve is continuing his journey back to Earth and all systems
are performing well aboard his Fabergé Egg. Steve took advantage
of the fact that the Sun is currently
positioned between the planet Mars and Earth. He used the Sun's
intense gravity to provide an enormous boost to the speed of his
egg, cutting months off the normal return time to Earth. As it
now stands, Steve's Egg will enter Earth's atmosphere (84 mile
altitude) at 01:56:39 a.m. MST on December 25, 2008. "Looks like I'll
be home for Christmas!", exclaimed Steve as he downed one of his kitty
treats onboard the egg.
Simulation of Steve's Egg Re-entering Earth's
at 29,800 Miles per Hour
Steve's Egg will enter
over the Pacific Northwest and will land in the Utah Test and Training
Range (UTTR) within the Great Salt Lake Desert. The egg will enter
the earth's atmosphere with the highest spacecraft re-entry speed
ever recorded, a whopping 29,800 miles per hour. NASA will have
an aircraft along the re-entry path to capture Steve's return.
After entry the egg will continue to free-fall until approximately
10,000 feet, at which point the main parachute deployment sequence
will initiate. Falling slowly by means of the parachute, Steve's
Egg will settle down to the ground at UTTC and be collected by
Steve's Re-entry Path Over the Western United
States. The re-entry
visible in the western states, particularly in Nevada along
between Elko and the Utah border.
to Mars - Martian Liftoff! November 9, 2008 -
8:45 pm Mountain Time
In one of the most remarkable video sequences ever returned from a planetary spacecraft (or egg), the camera aboard Steve the Cat’s Fabergé Egg captured the view outside of Steve’s viewing portal as he began his journey back to Earth. Ignition occurred right on time, at 7:40:32 pm Earth Mountain Time, hurtling Steve off the Martian surface and onto the initial leg of his 200 million mile journey back to Earth.
“Goodbye Phoenix!”, shouted Steve as the lander quickly faded from view beneath the rapidly ascending perchlorate powered egg.
Steve let out a joyful “Wahoo!” as his Fabergé Egg executed a preprogrammed pirouette before locking onto the escape trajectory that put him on a direct course back to Earth. The camera recorded amazing aerial views of the Phoenix Lander’s parachute and backshell, along with a spectacular view of Heimdall Crater, before losing contact with Earth when Steve and the Egg vanished over the Martian horizon. When contact was regained with Steve’s Egg a half hour later, it was established on a direct trajectory back to Earth.
Pepares to Leave Mars November 9, 2008 -
8:45 am Mountain Time
Steve the Cat is making final preparations for his return trip to Earth. He has moved his Fabergé Egg Return Pod a safe distance from the Phoenix Lander, erected it on its launch platform, and loaded it with a full supply of tuna packs and kitty treats for his trip. The strap-on perchlorate/asparagus boosters should give Steve the extra boost required to arrive back on Earth in record breaking time - possibly before Christmas.
Steve's Fabergé Egg, perched on its launch platform 200 million miles from Earth,
sits ready to
Steve back home after spending 6 months on the Martian surface.
Unveils Plaque on Phoenix Lander November 8, 2008 -
6:45 am Mountain Time
During one of his final EVA's on the surface of Mars, Steve the Cat unveiled a special plaque commemorating his historic voyage to Mars...
The Mars Plaque is made from 1/16th inch
measuring 9 x 7 5/8 inches.
has Final Celebration Before Leaving Mars November 6, 2008 -
6:45 am Mountain Time
It's Christmas on Mars, or at least that's the way Steve
the Cat sees it from the northern polar region of the red planet. Since Steve cannot stay on Mars until Christmas
arrives, he decided to celebrate a bit early by decking ut the
Phoenix Lander for the holidays. Although Steve is conserving as much power as possible during the final days of the Phoenix mission, he flipped on the lights decorating the lander for a few minutes to capture the following photo...
Instead of a traditional Christmas tree, Steve created a simulated saguaro cactus to acknowledge all of the hard work by the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, which has been in charge of the Phoenix Mission's surface operations since landing.
Steve Conserves Power on Mars November
5, 2008 -
8:23 am Mountain Time
Steve the Cat has been communicating with controllers daily since Oct.
30 through relays to Mars orbiters. Steve reports that Phoenix
is running out of power, and he is preparing the Fabergé Egg for
his return to Earth.
The fraction of each day with sun above the horizon is declining
at the Martian arctic landing site, and dust raised by a storm
last week continues to block some of the sunshine.
Steve remains in great spirits and is thrilled with the enormous
success of mission. Phoenix landed on Mars May 25th and accomplished
its main science goals during the three months originally planned as
its prime mission. The Phoenix Lander has continued operating on Mars for nearly
Steve peaks out from his specially designed space blanket while warming
inside the Phoenix Lander. Steve decided to sleep inside the
turning down the heat to 65 degrees
Sends Message to Earth and Celebrates Halloween on Mars October 31, 2008 -
12:35 am Mountain Time
After a communications problem caused
by shrinking solar-electric power due to shorter daylight
hours and a dust storm, Phoenix communicated with NASA's Mars Odyssey
orbiter Thursday. Steve surprised ground controllers when
he beamed back the following image of his Halloween Celebration...
Steve poses on top of the Phoenix Lander
after deploying his pumpkin on the surface
of Mars and hanging decorations on the robotic arm.
Inspects the Condition of His Spacecraft October 30, 2008 -
12:35 pm Mountain Time
Steve the Cat is winding up his
mission on Mars and is making final preparations for his return
to Earth. Today he headed outside the Phoenix Lander to inspect
the condition of his spacecraft, including the Fabergé Egg
that will transport him back to Earth.
"Everything looks great!", exclaimed
Steve as he walked around the lander. Steve's Asparagus
Boosters will significantly shorten his return trip to Earth.
Steve inspects the condition of
This image was acquired by NASA's
Phoenix Mars Lander's
filters, therefore the color is the color
(The image is produced by combining exposures
colored filters, which results in moving
shadows having a rainbow effect.) The
image shows shadows from
the SSI (left), Steve the Cat (middle) and the meteorological
mast (right) stretching toward the east as the sun dropped low
in the west.
Rock Named after Steve the Cat! September 6, 2008 -
12:35 pm Mountain Time
The Phoenix Team has named a rock
near the Snow White trench after Steve the Cat. Informally naming
surface features around landing sites on Mars started with the
Viking missions over 30 years ago. Steve's Rock joins the ranks
of such geological rock stars as "Barnacle Bill"
and "Yogi" from the Pathfinder mission, and "Adirondack" and "El
Capitan" from the Mars Exploration Rover Missions.
Steve's rock is
located adjacent to the historic Snow White Trench, where the first
water sampled on Mars was extracted.
Steve was thrilled to hear that a permanent feature
on Mars would bear his name.
Sporting a wry grin he quickly added, "Of course, better the rock than
me! When this mission ends, I'm outta here!"
Steve, of course,
was referring to his recently proposed Asparagus
will utilize Martian perchlorate as a component of the propellant
to get him back to Earth.
Startles Science Team with Ice and Mice September 1,
12:22 pm Mountain Time
The plan was to image ice clouds
scooting across the Martian sky in a movie clip consisting of 10
frames taken by the Surface Stereo Imager on the Phoenix Lander. The camera took these images as part of a campaign by the
Phoenix team to see clouds and track winds.
Steve, however, startled scientists on Earth when he jokingly tossed
one of his toy mice in front of the Surface Stereo Imager.
"With all this serious talk about
ice, I decided that it was time to break some
ice and play a little
joke on the science team", said Steve.
Steve startled scientists on Earth when he jokingly tossed one
of his toy mice in front of the Surface Stereo Imager.
Before they realized that the
mouse was a prank, the team thought it was some form of Martian
life. Because Instruments aboard Phoenix are not designed to directly
detect life, let alone mice, the team immediately started thinking
of ways to prove the existence of an actual mouse on Mars.
One of the team members explained,
"With our current instruments all that we would be able to
do is either bake the mouse, or bathe it in water. These tests
would probably agitate the mouse which could pose a possible
threat to the lander, and ultimately, neither test would actually
prove the existence of a mouse."
After Steve finally explained to
the team what he had done, the team went back to digging in the
Finds Fuel for His Return to Earth August 11, 2008 -
12:22 pm Mountain Time
Samples analyzed by the
Wet Chemistry Lab of the Phoenix Lander's Microscopy,
Electrochemistry, and Conductivity Analyzer (MECA) suggest
that one of the soil constituents may be perchlorate, a highly
oxidizing substance. Upon hearing the exciting news, Steve's
ears immediately perked up because perchlorate
is often used as an oxidizer in rocket fuel. For example, the
Space Shuttle's Solid Rocket Boosters use Ammonium Perchlorate
as an oxidizer to boost the massive vehicle into Earth orbit.
started working on a plan for, what he calls, Asparagus Boosters.
His plan is to use some of the asparagus that
he is growing to create booster casings for the Martian fuel. Because
of the fibrous nature of asparagus, it possesses properties similar
to modern composite materials. By carefully layering up the asparagus
Steve plans to create two boosters to affix to his Fabergé Egg
for extra thrust during his return trip to Earth,
Steve explained that the added
thrust would allow him to take a more direct trajectory
toward Earth, thus shortening his travel time by months.
Simulation of Steve's Fabergé Egg
lifting off from the surface of Mars
with cat-crafted asparagus boosters strapped to the outside.
Catnap August 2, 2008 -
5:42 pm Mountain Time
Steve the Cat takes a break on top of his Tuna Food
Storage Container inside the Phoenix Mars Lander,
Repairs TEGA Short Circuit July 27, 2008 -
2:12 pm Mountain Time
Last month a short circuit
was discovered in the Phoenix Mars Lander's Thermal and Evolved-Gas
Analyzer (TEGA). The short circuit was believed to have
been caused when TEGA's oven number four was vibrated repeatedly
over the course of several days to break up clumpy soil being delivered
to the oven. A team of engineers and scientists concluded
that another short circuit could possibly occur, so Steve the
Cat was called upon to help.
Wearing a special dander control suit,
Steve the Cat performs a delicate
repair of the
from within the Phoenix lander on the surface
The short circuit
mission for nearly a month.
Steve was able to access the TEGA
instrument by removing a few panels from inside the Phoenix Lander.
After a partial disassembly of the instrument, Steve found a short
in the solenoid that works the vibrator. Steve speculated that
because the vibrator was used so much during the acquisition of
the first clumpy sample, it apparently overheated. Insulation then
broke down on one of the wires which came in contact with
the chassis. Steve replaced the faulty wire, reassembled TEGA
and declared the instrument fully operational.
Steve’s successful repair
probably played into NASA’s announcement today that operational
funding for the mission will be extend through Sept. 30th. Good
to Apply Years of “Scoop Training” on Mars July 29, 2008 -
7:12 pm Mountain Time
Seen here prior to leaving on his trip
to Mars, Steve the Cat debates the
of conventional litter scoop
design with project scientists
engineers in the Payload Interoperability
engineers on NASA's Phoenix Mars Mission spent the weekend examining
how the icy soil on Mars interacts with the scoop on the lander's
robotic arm, while trying different techniques to deliver a sample
to one of the instruments. The team tried two methods to pick
up and deliver a sample of icy soil to a laboratory oven of the
Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer (TEGA). In both cases, most of
the sample stuck inside the lander's inverted scoop. It’s
starting to look like Steve the Cat will once again be called upon
to use his feline skills, this time to clean out the scoop.
Prior to leaving
on his trip to Mars, Steve sent many hours in the Payload Interoperability
Testbed (PIT) testing different scoop designs. The PIT contains
a full-scale working model of Phoenix that sits on simulated Martian
landscape, complete with red rocks surrounding the lander. Although
Steve debated the advantages of using the proven technology of
a more conventional litter scoop design on the Phoenix lander,
project scientists and engineers decided to use a slightly more
complex design which included ultra-strong blades for digging and
a high speed tungsten carbide cutting bit to drill into frozen
"I'll stick with a more conventional
design in my box at home" quipped Steve while conferring with project
engineers on Tuesday. Steve's litter box never gets below 65 degrees
Confers with PSIP Team July 10, 2008 - 3:12 pm Mountain Time
Photo Credit: Marilou Bebak, PSIP Facilitator
The PSIP team from
Dallas Texas, Tony (foreground) and Matt,
Steve about the upcoming ice sample delivery
planning to use the rasp on the Robotic
Arm scoop in order to
clean sample for TEGA. Since
is accustomed to scraping with his
claws, he is providing
with helpful information about what to
dig in the
trench named Snow White.
The Phoenix Student Interns Program (PSIP) allows
selected teachers and their chosen students from around the country
to work with scientists to prepare for surface operations on Mars
and analyze data during the mission. Following
months of preparation and special training, teachers and students
spend an entire week at the Science Operations Center in Tucson,
AZ during landed operations to help investigate the surface of
here to learn more about the PSIP program.
to Grow Asparagus on Mars July 10, 2008 - 9:23 am Mountain Time
Experiments aboard the Phoenix lander suggest that
the chemistry of Martian soil is a close analog to surface soils
found in the upper dry valleys in Antarctica. Phoenix also
found a reasonable number of nutrients needed by life as we know
it. This encouraging
result came from a test of soil excavated from the top inch of
a region called Wonderland at the lander's site in the northern
plains of Mars. The sample was delivered to the lander's wet chemistry
laboratory in the Microscopy, Electrochemistry and Conductivity
Analyzer (MECA) instrument. MECA also found the sample to
be fairly alkaline, with a pH of 8 or 9. Many vegetables, such
as asparagus and turnips, actually thrive at such a pH. It
just might be possible to grow asparagus on Mars!
Steve has decided to put this hypothesis to the test
by attempting to grow his own asparagus on Mars. He brought a variety
of seeds to Mars just in case Phoenix discovered that Martian soil
could indeed support life. Since turnip can cause intestinal
gas for Steve, he was quite relieved to find a packet of asparagus
seeds in his collection. “Living in such tight quarters
can be a real challenge at times”, quipped Steve as he radioed
Earth with his experiment proposal. His proposal was quickly
Steve gazes out at the ruddy landscape of Mars
while holding his
packet of asparagus seeds.
Answers Your Questions June 21, 2008 - 9:23 pm Mountain Time
Steve took some time on Saturday
afternoon to answer some of the questions that he has been receiving
in his guestbook.
Click on the picture to visit Steve's new Question & Answer Section.
the Cat Walks on Mars June 7, 2008 - 12:45 pm Mountain Time
First Paw Print on Mars!
Steve the Cat has set foot upon
the Planet Mars. At 10:45
a.m. Mountain Time, Steve left the Phoenix Lander and
walked into history. As Steve placed his paws on the Martian
soil he uttered, “It is the curiosity of cats that has led
us to the northern polar region of Mars. As we continue to
explore the Universe we will be joined by humans, who will be allowed
to feed and pet us.”
Steve's voice transmission as he stepped into history.
Steve likened the Martian Surface to a giant litter box, although
he wasn’t sure if it was clumpable.
Steve’s revolutionary semi-transparent Extravehicular Cat
Suit glinted in the Martian sun as he leapt away from the lander. The
form fitting suit was designed for maximum mobility, while providing
a durable protective layer and sterile barrier so that Steve will
not interfere with Phoenix’s search for life supporting chemistry.
Extravehicular Cat Suit.
Steve spent several minutes examining the Phoenix Lander that
transported him to Mars. “Phoenix looks great!” he
exclaimed “although it feels wonderful to finally be outside.” Steve
scratched at the soil, rolled around in the dirt, and basked in
the midday Martian sun. Because Steve had just completed
a 16 hour sleep period prior to his EVA (Extra Vehicular Activity),
he had lots of energy available for his first Martian excursion.
World reaction to Steve’s walk on Mars was immediate and
intense. In Mexico, cats called for extra long siestas to
celebrate Steve’s achievement. Australian cats
were seen in the streets tossing red “Martian Mice” back
and forth to each other. In London, cats became even more
indifferent to their owners after learning that a cat had made
it Mars before humans.
Steve ventured nearly 1,000 feet from the lander before taking
a brief cat nap. Within 5 minutes he had a long, very satisfying
stretch before heading back toward the lander for a salmon flavored
treat and his next sleep period.
Steve’s total time on the Martian surface during
his first EVA was 27 minutes and 14 seconds. His next
EVA is scheduled for the coming week. That EVA will follow
the deployment of Steve’s favorite toy mouse.
Steve to Walk on Mars on Saturday, June 7th June 6, 2008 - 9:23 am Mountain Time
Steve the Cat will step out onto the surface of Mars on Saturday morning at 10:45am Mountain Time. Confirmation of his successful egress will reach Earth 15 minutes later since the signals take that long to travel from Mars to Earth at the speed of light. Steve wanted to wait until the Phoenix Lander collected its first soil sample for analysis as an extra precaution against any form of contamination. Although the spacecraft is not intended to detect past or present life, Phoenix will be examining the soil for conditions favorable to life. Steve wanted to make doubly sure that he would not contaminate the sample. (His spacesuit is sterilized, however Steve is a total perfectionist.)
Arm Camera Captures Steve June 2, 2008 - 4:23 pm Mountain Time
The robotic arm on NASA's Phoenix
lander has captured an image of Steve inside the spacecraft. Steve
can be seen looking out of the cat porthole while analyzing the
region surrounding the lander in preparation for his first steps
onto the Martian surface. Steve reports that he is anxious to get
out on the surface and do some real exploring!
Steve the Cat inside the Phoenix Lander, as seen by
the camera on Phoenix's robotic sampling arm.
Steve has enjoyed reading the entries in his guestbook, which are beamed to Mars daily via the Deep Space Network on Earth and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Odyssey in orbit around Mars.
In response to some of the questions in his guestbook...
How is Steve going to get back to Earth?
The Fabergé Egg that protected Steve during his journey to Mars will also serve as a return module. Steve's Egg has a protective ablative heat shield that will allow it to enter the Earth's atmosphere at speeds approaching 35,000 mph. The exact time of Steve's return will be determined based on the length of the primary Phoenix mission, which is dependent on the weather on Mars.
What is Stave eating on Mars?
Steve has a variety of food packs to choose from. His favorite is Tuna although Ocean Fish is a close second. He is also rationing some cat treats, with Salmon and Crab Meat in Sauce being his favorite.
Has Steve found any life on Mars?
Not yet, however Steve has his paws crossed. Like the experiments on the Phoenix Lander, Steve's primary mission is to search for signs that life could exist on Mars. If Steve actually finds life THAT would be the cat's meow! Stay tuned...
Deploys "Scoop" June 1, 2008 - 7:00 pm Mountain Time
NASA's Phoenix lander has successfully
completed the deployment of its robotic litter scoop, putting
it on track to start scooping the Martian soil within
the next few days. This will allow Steve to step out onto the Martian
surface within the next day or two. NASA commanded the scoop to
start the process of freeing itself on Wednesday morning.
With Steve's help the arm has now completely freed itself from
the pins and a sterile wrapping called the bio-barrier, which prevented
the arm from being contaminated with Earth microbes prior to launch.
The scoop swings free - a great relief for Steve!
Retracts Bio-Barrier May 28, 2008 - 7:00 pm Mountain Time
On Monday, engineers noticed that
the "bio-barrier" designed to keep Phoenix's sampling
arm germ-free on Earth had not fully retracted. Although
there was no immediate concern that the arm would not be able to
rise from its resting position, Steve decided to play it safe and
took things into his own paws. He donned his space suit and briefly
stepped outside of the spacecraft to help retract the barrier.
New images show that the bio-barrier has been fully retracted.
This is the first low resolution image of Steve from the surface
of Mars. Steve can
seen gently pushing the bio-barrier into its fully retracted
position. The midday
can be seen glinting off
Steve's helmet and Extravehicular Cat Suit.
If all goes well with the deployment
of Phoenix's litter scoop on Thursday, Steve should be taking his
first steps onto the Martian surface early next week!
DVD on the Surface of Mars with Steve's Name May 26, 2008 - 10:00 pm Mountain Time
Steve has returned a photo of the DVD
that carries his name. The Phoenix DVD
was installed on the deck of the Phoenix
lander in April of 2007 at the Lockheed
Martin plant in Denver, Colorado.
Steve reports that all systems
look good on the spacecraft so far and he is looking forward
to taking his first steps on the surface of Mars later this week.
Steve had a solid 16 hours of sleep last night and spent 20 minutes
playing with his toy mouse before ending his first day on Mars.
to leaving the spacecraft Steve must verify the deployment of the
large litter scoop attached to the top of the spacecraft.
Steve is receiving all of the Guest Book
entries from this website. He really appreciates all of the kind
words! If you haven't had a chance yet, click
here to send a message to Steve
as he begins his mission on Mars.
First Images from Mars May 25, 2008 - 8:45 pm Mountain Time
The science team has released the first
images from the Phoenix lander. Steve will not be visible in these
first images since he is busy with is post-landing ops. After completing
these operations Steve will begin his first 16 hour sleep period.
Click on each image for a closer look...
This image, one of the first captured by
NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander, shows the vast plains of the
northern polar region of Mars. The flat landscape is strewn
with tiny pebbles and shows polygonal cracking, a pattern
seen widely in Martian high latitudes and also observed in
permafrost terrains on Earth. The polygonal cracking is believed
to have resulted from seasonal freezing and thawing of surface
Footpad of the Phoenix Lander on
One of the Phoenix Lander's deployed
solar panels on the surface of Mars.
Steve's First Transmission
From Mars May 25, 2008 - 8:30 pm Mountain Time
Steve's First Transmission From Mars
The Phoenix lander successfully touched down in the northern polar region of the planet Mars today. Confirmation of the landing reached Earth at 5:53 pm Mountain Time and initial indications are that the lander and its payload are in good shape. The lander is at a mere 1/4 degree of tilt and aligned almost perfectly east-west. Stay tuned for the first feline transmissions from the planet Mars!
Steve's current location on Mars.
Steve's Fascination with Mars November 2006
Steve has always dreamed of putting
the first paw prints on Mars. Steve has always felt that
it is much more logical to send a cat, instead of a human, first. A
small size makes the flight hardware much smaller and lighter. Also,
the sands of Mars make for one big litter box!
Steve is an active participant in
NASA's Phoenix Mission to Mars. The
Phoenix Mission will land in the northern polar region of Mars
in late May 2008 and stretch out an instrumented arm to dig into
the soil and ice. By studying the structure, composition, and chemistry
of soil and ice samples within Phoenix's trench, scientists hope
to learn about the history of water on Mars and the potential for
biologic activity to take place there.
Steve's Participation in NASA's Phoenix
Steve has already begun to cooperate with NASA and the
Planetary Society in the Phoenix Mission to Mars. As part
of their Messages from Earth project, The Planetary Society
collected names to actually travel to Mars on board the Phoenix
lander. A silica glass mini-DVD was installed on the Phoenix
spacecraft and is now on its way to Mars! The names
were written to the DVD using a special technique, resulting in
an archival disk that should last for hundreds of years on the
Martian surface. After the disc
was written, a special label was applied to the disc to identify
it for future explorers. The whole assembly was then "baked
out" (to kill microbes and also to reduce future outgassing of the
materials) and installed onto
Click on the following photos
for a closer view...
Certificate of Participation in the Phoenix Program. Steve
received this certificate after sending his name to the
On April 3, 2007, at the Multipurpose Test
Facility at the Lockheed Martin Plant in Denver,
the Phoenix DVD carrying Steve's name was installed
on the deck of the Phoenix lander. Credit: NASA/JPL/Lockheed
After installation, the spacecraft underwent further testing
and assembly, was shipped to the Kennedy Space Center (KSC),
and was launched on August 4, 2007. Phoenix
will arrive and land in the northern near-polar regions on Mars
in late May 2008.
You can look up Steve's
actual Certificate by visiting the Planetary Society's website.
Just type "Steve the Cat" into the search field...
Steve is using the Phoenix
mission and hardware to plan his own trip to the red planet. With
a few modifications, including the addition of a Fabergé
Egg life support pod (see below), the current Phoenix Lander could
easily get Steve to Mars.
On the Way! - Nasa's Phoenix Mission to
successfully launched on August 4, 2007.
Simulation of Steve's Landing On Mars
AstroCat Training at the Kennedy Space Center
Steve underwent astronaut
training at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. His rigorous
schedule included flying T-38 jet training aircraft and undergoing
zero-g training in NASA’s “Vomit-Comet”.
Steve taxis for take-off
Steve poses next to
his Shuttle Training Aircraft (modified Gulfstream II).
Steve & the astronauts relax between test
flights at KSC.
Steve experiences zero-g in NASA's "Vomit Comet"
Steve also took time
to observe the flight hardware while the Phoenix Lander
was being constructed.
Steve observes the propulsion
system assembly, test and integration.
with the installation of the Phoenix Lander into the backshell
that will house the spacecraft during its long trip to Mars.
Life Support - Steve's Egg
An important part of Steve's trip involves
Egg life support pod. This pod will protect Steve during his trip
to Mars, including the dangerous landing phase of the mission.
of the Phoenix lander and Steve's Fabergé Egg
after being ejected. The egg will only
eject in case of an emergency. It will also be used
to return Steve to Earth.
Inside of the Fabergé Egg. Steve's EVA suit,
and toy mouse, are neatly tucked into the opposite side of
the egg. Steve will don the suit after landing on Mars.
Learn more about the Phoenix Mission to
Mars by visiting the following websites:
Phoenix Mars Mission - The official science website
of NASA's Phoenix Mars Scout Mission, located at the Lunar
and Planetary Laboratory of the University of Arizona. This
website contains all of the latest information and updates
relating to the mission.