Monday, May 26, 2008

Phoenix Lander arrives on Mars

Bloomberg reports: [edited]

NASA's Mars Phoenix Lander touched down safely today on the Red Planet, where the probe will sift through the icy soil for any signs that it once harboured life.

"We've passed the hardest part and we're breathing again," Mars Phoenix Project Manager Barry Goldstein said. The Red Planet's rocky terrain and equipment problems have led to the failure of more than half of all Mars missions, including a Phoenix predecessor destroyed in 1999.

After its landing, Phoenix relayed pictures from the planet showing the plain and horizon, a foot of the craft on the soil and its solar panels extended so that it will be able to generate power, according to NASA.

The Phoenix, built by Lockheed Martin Corp., will be NASA's third probe active on the planet, along with the wheeled rovers Spirit and Opportunity. Like Phoenix, they were given three months to live after touchdown. To NASA's surprise, the vehicles are still working four years later.

"Who knows?" Lemmon said. "We may get lucky again."

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