Ten years in the making, NASA's Mars Phoenix Lander successfully completed its mission last month. The mission uncovered significant discoveries about never-before explored areas of the Red Planet. Scientists were able to verify the presence of water-ice in the Martian subsurface, find small concentrations of salts that could be nutrients for life, and observe snow descending from the clouds.
NASA senior engineer Prasun Desai led Langley's effort to guide Phoenix to a soft landing on the planet's polar regions. The touchdown was the first successful powered landing on the surface of the Red Planet since the Viking landings over 30 years ago.
Desai will speak on the Mars Phoenix Lander and Langley's contributions to the mission in a colloquium lecture this Tuesday, Dec. 9 called "Phoenix Lander's Odyssey to Mars -- A Ten Year Journey." The talk will take place at 2 p.m. in the Reid Conference Center at NASA Langley. Desai will present the same lecture for the general public on Tuesday evening at 7:30 p.m. at the Virginia Air & Space Center on Settlers Landing Road in Hampton. The evening talk is free and no reservations are required.
A NASA Langley employee for 18 years, Desai has contributed to the design, development and flight operations of many NASA missions pertaining to entry, descent and landing of probes at Mars and Earth. He led the design of the entry, descent and landing system for Langley's effort on the recent Mars Phoenix Lander mission. He was the NASA Langley lead for the Mars Exploration Rover mission that successfully landed the rovers "Spirit" and "Opportunity" in 2004. He also aided in the design and developments of the Stardust and Genesis entry capsules that were the first to return cometary and solar wind particles.