Monday 26 May 2008

The Phoenix Lander Has Touched Down on Mars

The Phoenix Lander has set down near the North Pole of Mars, and, over the next three months, sample martian soil and ice and look for conditions conducive for ancient microbial life.

Here is an artistic animation of what it might look like to see Phoenix land on Mars. In the animated sequence, the Phoenix spacecraft arrives at Mars, deploys its breaking parachute, jettisons its heat shield, fires it thrusters, lands, unfurls its solar panels, deploys its instruments, scoops up some of Mars, and begins its analysis.

The probe is equipped with a robotic arm to dig for water-ice thought to be buried beneath the surface.

Scientists say the mission should give the clearest indication yet of whether the planet could once have harboured primitive life.

Now that the solar panels have been deployed, the Mars Phoenix Lander has begun sending back pictures of the red planet (see the latest images here). In just a few weeks the claw will deploy and they’ll start digging a hole. The scientists expect to maybe find water and/or bacteria.

Update 2

While the Mars Phoenix Lander does not have a true video camera, NASA scientists can pan around a very high resolution image to create a video like this one of the Martian arctic plain.

More photographs here.

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