On August 4, 2007 the $325 million Phoenix spacecraft departed earth on a 422 million mile journey to Mars. Just yesterday the journey came to a head as Phoenix made its descent onto Mars. As you can see in the video below there was a lot of tension at NASA while they awaited confirmation that Phoenix Mars Lander successfully landed, and they were not notified until 15-minutes after-the-fact due to the communication delay between Mars and Earth.
The Phoenix Mars Lander was successful in dropping from 13,000 miles per hour down to 5 miles per hour in merely 7-minutes. It’s important to note that this is a “lander” and not a “rover” as some of the previous missions have been, and so this isn’t really designed to move around much. For that reason a lot of people are thankful that it didn’t land on a rock or incline, and then tip over.
Using a robotic arm it will start “digging” in the northern polar region to see if there are any signs below the surface that life on the planet was possible. Its mission will last about 92 days, and it’s unlikely that the Phoenix Mars Lander will be able to survive the harsh winter that is to come after that.
Images are already starting to roll in from cameras onboard the Phoenix that show the solar panels opened as expected, and also give an indication of what the surroundings are like. Most of the current photos are in black and white because their purpose right now is to make sure deployment went smoothly. More color images are supposed to come in the days ahead.
And finally here’s the video of what it was like for the team as they awaited confirmation that Phoenix had successfully landed: