Phoenix Mars Lander Prepares For Touchdown, Unprecedented Exploration

If successful, Phoenix will demonstrate the many benefits of NASA's collaboration with academia and the
private sector.
By K.C. Jones
May 22, 2008 03:38 PM

Artist concept of Phoenix landing on Mars. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

The Phoenix Mars Lander is scheduled to touch down on the Red Planet this Sunday, and if the landing
is successful, NASA could receive images of the planet's landscape that have never been seen before.

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Phoenix Mission, as the first of NASA's Scout Missions, is truly breaking new ground in planetary
exploration," Peter Smith, principal investigator for the Phoenix, said in a statement. "We are landing our
spacecraft in a place where none has gone before to better understand Mars' secrets."
The Mars Society said the Phoenix has the potential to change people's view of Mars, from a scientific
perspective and in terms of project development.

"This is a very exciting mission," Chris Carberry, executive director of the Mars Society, said in a
statement. "Phoenix will tell us a great deal about water on Mars, including whether it is readily
accessible today as ice within the martian soil. Additionally, if successful, Phoenix will demonstrate the
many benefits of NASA's collaboration with academia and the private sector, including improved cost
efficiency and innovative new design concepts."

If the Phoenix lands properly, it will explore the northern plains of Mars.

The lander has an arm that can dig trenches and analytical tools that could study water believed to be
just below the surface of frozen soil. Solar arrays are expected to power the Phoenix, while a
meteorological station and a thermal and evolved-gas analyzer will feed information about conditions. A
surface stereoscopic imager has cameras spaced as far apart as human eyes, which allow it to capture
three-dimensional images and panoramic views.

The information it gathers is expected to help scientists understand the planet's history and determine
whether there is or was life on Mars.