The Canadian team is receiving daily weather reports from Phoenix’s Canadian-built meteorological station for the duration of the 90-day mission. Phoenix, a joint project of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratories and the University of Arizona, landed on Mars on May 25, at 7:38pm EDT. The weather station was activated within the first hour after landing.
"Measurements are now being recorded continuously, and will expand to include humidity and visibility," says Jim Whiteway, professor of space engineering at York and the principal investigator for the Canadian team.
York profs watch from Arizona as Mars probe lands safely (Includes mentions of other media reports)
York alumnus Steve MacLean (BSc '77, PhD '83), chief astronaut for the Canadian Space Agency, said Canada got involved in the project because of its expertise operating in a frigid northern environment, wrote The Canadian Press May 25. “This is the first time that we have an instrument that we sponsored as a nation” on such a space mission, he said. “All the measurements that we did in the North over the last 15 years contribute to us being a major player on this mission.”
The weather station Canada built for the mission is able to provide regular readings of the temperature on Mars, atmospheric pressure, cloud height, humidity and wind speed.
The lidar system comes from Alan Carswell, York professor emeritus, who ran a laboratory and then spun off a company called Optech to develop a larger role for Canada in the space program. MacLean says Carswell has emerged as a central figure in the Mars mission and is at the Phoenix mission control centre overseeing the operation.
Canadians feel loss of Mars mission scientist
Clinking glasses as they celebrated the triumphant touchdown on Mars of the Phoenix lander Sunday evening, York University professor Jim Whiteway and his team missed the one person who should have been there.
Diane Michelangeli was the lead researcher behind the innovative Canadian-built meteorological station on the Phoenix, before she died of cancer last year – less than a month after the station was launched. Team members still feel the loss.
"We were thinking of Diane after the landing," said Whiteway yesterday from the University of Arizona, where scientists had gathered to watch the lander touchdown with "surreal" accuracy. "We're missing Diane dearly."