• The science team, led by Peter Smith of the UA Lunar and Planetary Lab, has spent the last couple of days completing the 360-degree mosaic photo of the landscape around the spacecraft, which has been transmitting data since it landed last Sunday, May 25. NASA has a created an animated tour.
Now the scientists are doing a detailed map and analysis of the area, which includes rock features like Sleepy Hollow, Humpty Dumpty and King’s Men. “For naming rocks, you might think that scientist would go with A1 and A2 and B3 or something, but that is so dull,” says Smith, who adds that the team will have to stick with folk tales that were established before copyright laws kicked in.
The science team is setting aside one area as a “nature preserve” that they will leave untouched and designating another area more of a “Superfund site” where they’ll do their initial gathering of soil samples with the robotic arm in the next week.
• The robot arm is moving and has snapped photos of what appears to be ice underneath the lander. Smith explains that icy patch was uncovered when the soil was stirred up by the landing thrusters of the Phoenix and says the discovery is a good sign for the mission because it suggests the ice is close to the surface. The science team hopes to use the robot arm to deliver samples of the ice to onboard labs that can analyze the Martian water.
“If we hadn’t been able to find ice near our landing site, we would have missed the opportunity to study climate history and the preservation of organic material,” says Smith. “This is really a gleeful day for me. Right away, within the first week, we know just how deep this ice is.”
• The Thermal and Evolved Gas Analyzer’s mass spectrometer is on the fritz. Smith says the Phoenix team is hard at work at resolving the problem: “Nobody thinks it’s more than a little hiccup.”
On Monday night at 8, the Loft cinema will be showing Hot Rods to Hell, starring an aging but powerful Dana Andrews (Tobacco Road, Ox Bow Incident) as a family man whose bad back is emasculating him: He has to let his wife drive the car! Then, things get even worse when crazy hot-rodders nearly force Andrews and family off the road. Revenge would be sweet, but is he man enough to get it? This film is a classic of '60s b-movie/roadhouse cinema, the kind of thing that Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino can't quite capture in their high-budget homages. But the best part is the electric psych/blues band, featuring Mickey Rooney Jr. on guitar. I know trash cinema isn't everyone's bag, but this one is special, like getting hugged by a one-armed surfer girl on a California beach at the sunset of youth.
Former state lawmaker John Kromko, last seen unsuccessfully trying to persuade voters to pass water restrictions in last year’s city election, has filed to run for the state House of Representatives in Legislative District 27. Kromko has until June 4 to collect at least 402 valid signatures from voters in the westside district.
The two incumbents, Democrats Phil Lopes and Olivia Cajero-Bedford, are also seeking re-election.
More in next week's Skinny!
Yuri Downing, the one-time Libertarian candidate who absconded rather than face prison time after he pled guilty to perjury charges related to misuse of Clean Elections dollars, is cooling his heels in Pima County Jail while he awaits transfer to Maricopa County.
Downing, the son of former District 28 state Rep. Ted Downing, was arrested yesterday by the Tucson Police Department, according to Deputy Dawn Hanke, a spokeswoman for the Pima County Sheriff's Department.
We're still tracking down details on the arrest, but in the meantime, here's what we reported back in March 2005:
Yuri Downing, the one-time Libertarian candidate from Maricopa County who recently pled guilty to perjury in relation to a free-spending campaign with Clean Elections dollars, is a wanted man.
Judge Jeffrey Hotham of Maricopa County Superior Court issued a warrant for Downing's arrest last Wednesday, March 16, after Assistant Attorney General E.G. Noyes informed the court of his "continuing willful violations of his release conditions."
Downing, the son of Rep. Ted Downing of Tucson, got in trouble with the law after he decided to run for the Arizona Senate. He persuaded two buddies to run for the House of Representatives, forming a Libertarian ticket that had no chance of actually winning office.
Still, because they managed to qualify for Clean Elections dollars, the three received about $100,000 in public money for their campaigns. A good chunk ended up being spent at Scottsdale nightclubs and other hotspots, which the candidates explained was part of their effort to reach out to new voters.
But Clean Elections officials weren't much amused by the trio's unorthodox campaigning and ordered them to repay the money. Downing's pals eventually agreed to reimburse the program on an installment plan; an anonymous benefactor bailed them out last year.
But Downing vowed to fight the commission, saying his campaign was totally legitimate. Once the Attorney General's Office got involved, however, Downing decided he didn't want his day in court after all. He pled guilty to perjury just before Christmas last year.
Downing's sentencing was scheduled for Jan. 26, but his attorney filed a motion requesting a continuance, saying Downing "is experiencing a mental crisis." Judge Hotham agreed to postpone the hearing, but ordered Downing to undergo drug and alcohol monitoring with Pretrial Services.
But Downing failed to report to pretrial services and, according to papers filed with the court, "had not submitted to drug testing, and ... said he would not do it because he would test positive for drugs."
Noyes asked for the arrest warrant late last month because Downing's "apparently drug-using, deteriorating, increasingly desperate condition" and "his expressed fear of incarceration" made him a flight risk.
Elsewhere on the outer space/robot/science beat:
Denver voters get to decide whether to create a Extraterrestrial Affairs Commission--and the campaign includes a new film of a space alien!
The Rocky Mountain News reports:
A video that purportedly shows a living, breathing space alien will be shown to the news media Friday in Denver.
Jeff Peckman, who is pushing a ballot initiative to create an Extraterrestrial Affairs Commission in Denver to prepare the city for close encounters of the alien kind, said the video is authentic and convinced him that aliens exist.
"As impressive as it is, it's still one tiny portion in the context of a vast amount of peripheral evidence," he said Wednesday. "It's really the final visual confirmation of what you already know to be true having seen all the other evidence."
Meanwhile, scientists have managed to get monkeys to work robots with the power of their minds. Is the enslavement of all mankind at hand?
It's online and ready for you to devour! Feel free to comment here on its comments.
And here's this week's YouTube Ask a Mexican!
The Phoenix Mars Lander team released new photos this morning, including this expanded version of the photo of the Phoenix during its descent state. We showed you the close-up yesterday; this one, featuring an enormous crater, is the long view. You can see the Phoenix in the inset.
NASA also announced that the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is having some technical difficulties in communicating with the Phoenix, but officials say it's just a temporary glitch that should be resolved soon. As a result, the science team was unable to send today's instructions to the Phoenix, which will instead continue with a pre-programmed routine.
More details at the Phoenix Web site.
When the Tucson Weekly first talked with the parents of Jose Rincon, the 14-year-old who died in January while riding his bicycle with a friend, Jose and Adriana Rincon said they would work to remind the court and Glenda Rumsey--the woman accused of killing their son--that he was loved by many and would not be forgotten.
At Rumsey's May 14 pre-trial hearing, more than 130 people filled Judge Richard Fields' courtroom. Rumsey faces charges of second-degree murder, DUI and fleeing the scene of a hit-and-run after she allegedly went off the road and hit two bicyclists, Jose and his friend Oscar.
At the pre-trial hearing, Judge Fields set the trial date for Oct. 14, with a backup date of Jan. 6, in case the defense and prosecutors needed more time. He did warn both, however, that he wanted them to be ready by Oct. 14 and hoped they did not take advantage of the Jan. 6 date.
Heads-up from Friends of Painted Hills: They need your support tomorrow when Judge Xavier Chon-Lopez hears a cross-motion for a summary judgment filed by developers of a proposed project--still making its way through Pima County Developmental Services--that could put 260 houses on 286 acres on the Painted Hills.
The hearing takes place in Room 774 at Pima County Superior Court at 10:30 a.m. The hearing is part of the lawsuit filed by Painted Hills residents against Pima County. The residents claim their rights were denied by the county when it failed to adequately notify them of the pending approval of the development.
TDB Tucson Group, the Dallas developer, is an affected third party in the lawsuit, and according to Friends of Painted Hills, it is within its right to request a summary judgment. Expect to hear legal arguments presented by both sides and formal presentations by the plaintiffs and others. Friends of Painted Hills say TDB may walk away from the third party summary judgment disappointed:
"...the outcome of that judgment may, in fact, not be what TDB expects or wants given the plaintiffs' very solid claim that their constitutional due process rights were denied by (Pima County) in its complete failure to adequately notify them of the pending approval of the development."
After the Tucson Weekly last talked with Friends of Painted Hills reps, the Pima County Board of Supervisors on April 8 requested that staff contract with an independent lawyer to determine if the county can legally make cluster-ordinance revisions retroactive. If approved, any retroactive maneuvering could end the Painted Hills development.
This month the county retained Paul Loucks of Mesch, Clark and Rothschild to advise them on the feasibility and legality of retroactively applying procedural changes to the cluster ordinance to 2007. According to Friends of Painted Hills, retroactivity would make their lawsuit moot, as the county would have to go back and adequately notify affected property owners, and would give them standing to appeal the Design Review Committee's past decisions.
The big news from the Phoenix Mars Mission today: The UA's Lunar and Planetary Lab's HiRISE camera aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter managed to snap a photo of the Phoenix as it descended to the planet's surface. It's the first time one spacecraft has snapped a photo of another spacecraft landing on another planet.
Dr. Alfred McEwen, who heads up the HiRISE mission, was clearly thrilled by the photo, which was taken when the MRO was about 760 kilometers from the Phoenix.
"This one is really unique," says McEwen, who put it among his top 10 favorite photos from the HiRISE.
NASA has posted some nifty animated films, including "Phoenix Landing: Nerves and Joy," a recap of the landing you can find if you root around in the archives. For more photos and updates from the mission, visit the Phoenix Mission Web site.
Over the next few days, the Phoenix will continue taking photos while calibrating and testing the other instruments on board the lander, which touched down near the Martian north pole yesterday. The mission is scheduled to last 90 Martian days (which amounts to about 92 days as we earthlings measure time), but scientists say they will continue experiments until the sun dips too low to continue powering the robotic lab.
"We're gonna operate until Mars freezes over," said Barry Goldstein of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at this morning's press conference.
Comedy shows take place at 9 p.m., every Tuesday, in the Mooney Backlot, located directly behind Screen… More