AE Alums Play Role in Phoenix Lander Mission
The alumni were Lynn Craig, BS 2000; Cliff Helfrich, BS 1990; and Theodore (Ted) Drain, BS 1995. Said Craig, "Seeing this mission through from its start in the proposal phase through successful surface operations has been an exciting and rewarding experience. It was such a thrill to be one of the cheering engineers in Mission Control and watching the first photos from the surface stream in."
Based at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California since 2002, Craig has worked in Mission Design and Navigation on several projects, including serving as a member of the Navigation team for the 2003 Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity. As of Sept 2008, Craig is working in the Mission Operations Directorate at NASA Johnson Space Center where she will be training as a Flight Controller for the International Space Station.
For the past 4 years, she worked to determine the launch and arrival trajectory design, cruise navigation, and surface mission geometries for science and communication planning. Her focus has been optimizing the design of Phoenix's Entry Descent and Landing (EDL) communication to each of the three current Mars orbiters that provided near real-time telemetry of Phoenix's descent. Resulting from this EDL communication strategy was the first-ever image taken of a spacecraft's descent to Mars by another Martian orbiting asset. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) captured Phoenix as it parachuted to the surface.
Craig said Helfrich assisted with Maneuver Design, planning the various propulsive maneuvers to correct the Phoenix trajectory during its cruise to Mars. Drain worked as a software developer who maintained the navigation software responsible for gathering and processing navigation and trajectory information for Phoenix.
Phoenix is a joint project between NASA JPL, Lockheed Martin Astronautics, and the University of Arizona.