Success! Phoenix has landed on Mars!

Monday, May 26, 2008

News Item Photo
Photo credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

I didn't write about this before it landed because I'm always nervous before events like this, but I woke up this morning and Phoenix has landed successfully on Mars. Wonderful news.

The spacecraft touched down in the Vastitas Borealis plains within the Martian arctic circle, where it is slated to spend at least three months searching for water ice hidden away below the frozen surface. The descent and landing sequence went completely as planned.

"This team has performed perfectly...did you see that thing zoom down and then just touch?" said an exuberant Peter Smith, Phoenix's principal investigator of the University of Arizona. "It's not on a's in a safe place."


The $420-million Phoenix mission, which launched in August, is designed to dig down to the rock-hard layers of water ice thought to lie under the Martian soil in the northern arctic region. Phoenix's arrival marked the first successful landing on Mars since NASA's twin Spirit and Opportunity rovers bounced to a stop in 2004 and the first powered landing in more than 30 years for NASA.

The landing brings to an even 50/50 the percentage of successful and unsuccessful landing attempts on Mars (though the success rate for American landings is much higher: 6 out of 7).

"For the first time in 32 years, and only the third time in history, a JPL team has carried out a soft landing on Mars," said NASA Administrator Michael Griffin from JPL mission control. "I couldn't be happier to be here to witness this incredible achievement."

Asked what is goal for Phoenix is now, Smith replied, "Get some pictures back. We want to see Mars!" At 9:50 p.m. EDT (0150 May 26 GMT) this evening, Smith got his wish, as Phoenix sent several black-and-white images of itself and the surrounding terrain through its link with the Mars Odyssey Orbiter.

So go to their site and check out the latest news and pictures. Don't forget that this one won't be moving around like the rovers; Phoenix has a set mission that will end when the weather gets too cold (it's summer in the arctic where it is now), and will be checking out soil and doing a lot more detailed investigating than the rovers have been able to. That means the pictures won't be as entertaining, but at the same time there's a good chance that it'll make some interesting discoveries that the others haven't been able to.

Edit: here's the thread on the forums at if you want to see some of the discussion and latest news on what's going on on the surface.


  © Blogger templates Newspaper by 2008

Back to TOP