Monday, May 26, 2008

Mars Lander Sitting Pretty and Ready to Dig

Stunning photos sent back from Mars show the Phoenix lander sitting pretty on the icy northern plain and the spacecraft with its solar arrays deployed.

The spacecraft now morphs into a science lab, deploying all its instruments, including a camera and a mini backhoe. It will dig in the dirt at the landing site to find out whether the cold, forbidding surface of Mars could once have been warm enough for microbial life to exist on the planet.

It has been 32 years since NASA last landed a powered spacecraft on Mars. The Phoenix lander broke the jinx when it made a textbook landing late Sunday night on Mars' polar horizon. The cheers that broke out in the control room at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab were contagious.

Could it have gone any better? "Not in my dreams," said project manager Barry Goldstein.

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