Ida and Dactyl 2003
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.
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
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.
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
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.