John Johnson
Phoenix lander's work on Mars is delayed by a radio glitch

Prospecting near Mars' north pole was set back at least a day Tuesday when a communications link to NASA's Phoenix lander, nestled into a wide, undulating expanse nicknamed Green Valley, was interrupted by what spacecraft operators called a "transient event." The event, caused by a cosmic ray or some other high-energy particle, knocked out the UHF radio on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, one of two NASA spacecraft circling Mars that relay computer commands between Phoenix and Earth. The interruption occurred as operators were attempting to test the nearly 8-foot-long robotic arm that is to begin digging into the Martian plain sometime in the next few days. Lying...