Monday, May 26, 2008
Phoenix's descent was the first successful soft landing on Mars for 32 years. The lander has landed in really flat in a northern Arctic region called Vastitas Borealis. The solar panels have successfully deployed, and a flood of images have come back of, well, a fairly flat plain. More images can be found at the Phoenix Gallery. Most of the images are black and white but there are also some colour images.
When all instrument checks are completed the lander will extend its robotic arm and dig through the protective top soil layer to the water ice expected to be below. Both soil and water ice will be returned to the lander platform for analysis. Hopefully this information will provide insights into the following questions: can the Martian Arctic subsurface support life, what is the history of water at the landing site, and finally, how is the Martian climate affected by polar dynamics?
We will all be watching the Phoenix lander intently over the next 90 days.
More information at the NASA Phoenix site and the JPL Phoenix site. Emily at the Planetary Society weblog has some good reportage of the landing and press conference, Tom has some good commentary as does the Bad Astronomer, while DaveP is all atwitter.