Exploring the Red Planet
Mars Rovers Mars Express Orbiter 2005 Phoenix 2007 Smart Lander 2009
MTO 2009 Mars Internet Euro Rover 2011 Sample Return 2016 Japan Nozomi
Mars Odyssey Global Surveyor Pathfinder Beagle 2 All Probes
Mariners Vikings Polar Lander Climate Orbiter DeepSpace 2
Phobos Future Plans Other Places Human Trips Mars the Planet

Mars Scout Lander 2007...
Phoenix lands successfully at Mars' North Pole
phoe·nix (fee-nix)

The Phoenix was a mythological Egyptian bird representing immortality. It lived 500 years in a desert, consumed itself by fire, and then arose from its ashes.

NASA JPL artist conception of Phoenix landing on Mars
NASA JPL artist conception of Phoenix landing on Mars' arctic plain

click on any image to enlarge it
The first photo from Phoenix on Mars
The first image sent by Phoenix from Mars' arctic plain to Earth. NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

Photo of Mars by Phoenix
The first Phoenix image looking across the Martian landscape. NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

Photo of Phoenix lander's foot on Mars
Phoenix sees its foot on the Martian surface NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

Small rocks on the hard surface
This Phoenix image shows small rocks on a hard surface of Mars NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

A crease in the hard surface
This Phoenix image finds a crease in the hard surface of Mars NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

University of Arizona photo of Phoenix mockup in Death Valley, California
Phoenix mockup in Death Valley, California NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona
views:   1   2   3   4   5

The collection of Phoenix lander's images from Mars »»

Image gallery: Phoenix landing on Mars »»

The U.S. Mars Record
From Mariner 9's successful insertion into Mars orbit in 1971 through MRO in 2006 and Phoenix in 2008, the U.S. now is 7-2 on orbital insertions at Mars.

The U.S. space agency also has completed successfully six of its seven attempts to land on Mars.

Successful orbital insertions:

  • The first man-made satellite to orbit a planet other than Earth was America's Mariner 9 launched in 1971.

  • Viking 1, launched in 1975, flew into orbit around Mars from where it dropped its lander to the surface in 1976.

  • Viking 2, launched in 1975, went into orbit around Mars and dropped its lander to the surface in 1976.

  • In 1996, Mars Global Surveyor orbited Mars.

  • In 2001, Mars Odyssey orbited Mars.

  • In 2006, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter orbited Mars.

  • In 2008, Phoenix lander at Mars.

    Unsuccessful orbital insertions:

  • In 1993, Mars Observer was intended for orbit, but was lost.

  • In 1999, Mars Climate Orbiter was intended for orbit, but was lost.

    Successful bulls-eye landings:

    Hitting the middle of a planetary bulls-eye is not unlike hitting the upper edge of the planet's atmosphere. Navigation has to be right on target in both cases.

  • In 1997, America's Pathfinder with the Sojourner rover went straight in to a landing on Mars.

  • In 2004, Mars Exploration Rover Spirit flew straight in and landed.

  • In 2004, Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity flew straight in and landed.

  • In 2008, Phoenix Lander flew straight in and landed.

    Unsuccessful bulls-eye landings:

  • In 1999, Mars Polar Lander was intended to land directly on Mars, but was lost.

    Other early fly-by successes:

  • America's Mariner 4 launched in 1964 was the first successful probe to reach Mars as the probe flew by in 1965.

  • In 1969, the U.S. probes Mariner 6 and Mariner 7 successfully completed the first dual-spacecraft fly-by mission to the Red Planet.

  • A robot explorer named Phoenix – launched by NASA in August 2007 – landed successfully in a high northern latitude of Mars on May 25, 2008.

    The lander touched down on terrain suspected of covering a vast reservoir of water ice just a foot beneath the surface. Phoenix is looking for water in ice on and just beneath the surface and searching the arctic soil for signs of life.

    Icy abundance. The Mars Odyssey spacecraft orbiting above the Red Planet spotted evidence in 2002 of the large ice reservoir very near the surface of the artic region. Phoenix is following up on the Odyssey discovery by looking beneath the surface of the Red Planet.

    Phoenix is carrying out the first ever sub-surface analysis of ice-bearing materials on another planet. It's data and photos are sent to Earth by radio. The signals take about 15 minutes to travel from Mars to Earth at the speed of light, which is 670,616,629 miles per hour.

    For Phoenix, it was a 10-month, 422 million-mile voyage through space.

    The robot explorer landed in Mars' north pole region – about 70° north latitude. The area is somthing like Earth's Greenland or northern Alaska.

    What Phoenix does. Phoenix uses its eight-foot-long robotic arm to excavate a trench in the ground, and retrieve samples for geological and chemical analysis. The lander exposes the upper few feet of surface material by digging with a robotic arm to find the ice that was spotted by Mars Odyssey. Phoenix: The history of the ice and its interaction with the martian atmosphere will be studied for at least three months.

    Phoenix is a stationary lander. It does not rove around the surface. Instead, the robotic arm digs into the Martian ice layer and picks up samples for the analytical instruments on the lander's deck.

    Resurrecting the dead. Like its namesake, this modern Phoenix seemed to rise from the ashes as it carried forward the legacies of two earlier attempts to explore Mars.
    The instrument package. The University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory resurrected the set of instruments designed and built for, but never flown on, NASA's cancelled 2001 Mars Surveyor Lander.

    Only the Mars Odyssey orbiter [INFO »], flew to Mars in 2001.

    The unused 2001 Lander instrument package was improved for Phoenix. The soil and ice samples dug up are tested with miniature ovens and a mass spectrometer, built by the University of Arizona and University of Texas-Dallas. They will perform a chemical analysis of trace matter.

    The chemistry of the soil and ice will be determined by a chemistry lab-in-a-box assembled by JPL.

    The imaging systems were designed by the University of Arizona, the University of Neuchatel in Switzerland, which provided an atomic force microscope, the Max Planck Institute in Germany, and Malin Space Science Systems of the U.S.

    To record the arctic weather, the Canadian Space Agency sent along a meteorological station. That was the first major involvement of Canada in a mission to Mars.

    The 2005 Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter looked for landing sites for the Phoenix Mars Lander 2007.

    Cutting costs. Phoenix was the first project in NASA's Mars Scout program of competitively selected missions. Scouts are innovative and relatively low-cost elements of the space agency's Mars Exploration Program.

    The Phoenix mission is operated for NASA by the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona in partnership with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, California, the Canadian Space Agency, and Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, Colorado. University of Arizona scientist Peter Smith is the project's principal investigator. The Mars Scout Program is managed by JPL for NASA's Office of Space Science at Washington, D.C.

    With the cost of each Scout mission limited to $325 million, NASA chose the least expensive of four projects competing for the 2007 launch (see the others below). Phoenix, which resurrects much of the technology of the ill-fated Mars Polar Lander [INFO »], cost $284 million.

    The other three concepts were a Mars airplane, a sample return mission to bring Martian atmospheric dust to Earth, and a Mars orbiter. Each of those would have cost about $325 million.
    Phoenix at the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona »»

    The Four Different Explorers That Were Proposed

    Today, NASA wants small innovative missions of interplanetary exploration, unlike past large-scale Mars missions such as Mariner, Viking or Pathfinder. Mars Scout flights would be launched more frequently at less expense. In the Mars Scout program, small groups of scientists propose missions to answer cutting-edge questions.

    The space agency had four proposed vehicles from which to choose the 2007 Mars Scout:

    Mars Scout - ARES ARES
    Aerial Regional-scale Environmental Survey

    < click image to enlarge artist concept

    This proposed airplane, known as Aerial Regional-scale Environmental Survey (ARES), would take a very close look at Mars by gliding one mile above the surface of the Red Planet in the thin Martian atmosphere. The small airplane's spring-loaded wings would unfold automatically from its fuselage.

    It would carry video cameras, a spectrometer and a magnetometer to measure water vapor and gases. The magnetometer also would search for the most ancient Martian rock, which, unlike much of the planet, is magnetically charged. Scientists think such a rock would be older than any rock on Earth.

    Researchers are designing the airplane to send back the first-ever on-the-spot measurements of the chemistry of the atmosphere within the planetary- boundary layer near the surface of Mars. They hope that would offer clues to the chemical evolution of the planet, as well as its climate history and biological activity.

    ARES would be built at NASA's Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia.

        More info on ARES from:     Langley     Langley     JPL

    Mars Scout - MARVEL MARVEL
    Mars Volcanic Emission and Life Scout

    < click image to enlarge artist concept

    Mars has many volcanoes. Scientists think places with volcanic activity might be good spots to look for life. The vehicle to study Mars Volcanic Emission and Life (MARVEL) would search for an active volcano that might be heating an underground hydrothermal system. Life be found in such a warm water environment.

    MARVEL's will carry two spectrometers so sensitive, "if you had just three cows anywhere on Mars, we would be able to detect the amount of methane they added to the atmosphere," according to the principal investigator.

    MARVEL would carry out a global survey of photochemistry in the Martian atmosphere as it searched for emissions related to active volcanism or microbial activity. The probe to track the behavior of water in the Red Planet's atmosphere across a full year.

    MARVEL would be built at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.

        More info on MARVEL from:     JPL     JPL

    Mars Scout - SCIM SCIM
    Sample Collection for Investigation of Mars

    Sample Collection for Investigation of Mars (SCIM) would fly all the way to Mars and then back to Earth. That would make it the very first probe from Earth to make the 1.75-billion-mile round-trip flight.

    SCIM's instruments would be powered along the way by two round solar panels. At Mars, SCIM would fold its solar panels and enter the planet's atmosphere. It would pass intentionally through one of the huge Martian dust storms, sucking up up 1,000 cubic centimeters of dust, gas and air samples. Then it would return the samples to Earth.

    The probe would use aerogel to grab and hold the sample atmospheric dust and gas. It would use a so-called "free-return trajectory" to bring the samples back to Earth. Those samples undoubtedly would provide human knowledge with a breakthrough in understanding the chemistry of the Red Planet, its atmosphere, its surface, its interior evolution and its biological activity.

    SCIM would be built at the Arizona State University, Tempe.

        More info on SCIM from:     JPL     Arizona State Univ     Arizona State Univ     Arizona State Univ [pdf]     LPI [pdf]

    University of Arizona artist concept of Phoenix on Mars
    LPL artist concept of Phoenix on Mars

    On Mars, Phoenix would use a robot arm to dig a trench and retrieve soil samples. It then would analyze the samples for signs of microbial life. It also would examine ice and water vapor near the surface of the Red Planet.

    Phoenix would study water, organic molecules and the climate. It would measure indicator molecules at high-latitude sites where Mars Odyssey discovered evidence of large ice concentrations in the Martian soil.

    Phoenix would be built at the University of Arizona, Tucson. Because it would recycle instruments that were intended for, but never used in, the Mars Surveyor Lander, it would be the least expensive and most conservative of the four proposed Scout vehicles. It also would use the Mars Odyssey Lander, which was tested, but not launched.

        More info on Phoenix from:     JPL     Univ of Arizona

    Space Today Online:
    Exploring Mars
    Mars Probes
    Probes of the Past
    Probes of the Future
    Mars Water
    Mars Canals
    Mars Air
    Mars Rocks
    Mars Seasons
    Mars Mountains
    Mars Rift Valley
    Mars Moons
    Mars Life Search
    Mars Dust Storms
    Mars Stats
    Mars Nearby
    Mars history
    Mars Resources
    Mars Orbiter 2005
    Mars Scout 2007
    NASA Mars History:
    Rover Spirit 2003
    Rover Opportunity 2003
    Express 2003
    Odyssey 2001
    Polar Lander 1999
    Climate Orbiter 1998
    Deep Space 2 1999
    Global Surveyor 1996
    Pathfinder Lander 1996
    Rover Sojourner 1996
    Pathfinder Mission 1996
    Viking-1 Lander 1975
    Viking-2 Orbiter 1975
    Viking-1 Lander 1975
    Viking-1 Orbiter 1975
    Mariner 9 Orbiter 1971
    Mars 3 Lander 1971
    Mariner 4 Flyby 1964
    Viking Mission 1975
    Mars Meteorites - JPL
    Explorations Planned:
    2003 & Beyond - Goddard
    2005 & Beyond - JPL
    Mars Exploration - JPL
    Plans to Explore Planets

    Solar System:
    Solar System - JPL
    Welcome to the Planets - JPL
    Planetary Photojournal - JPL
    Mars - Athena - NASA Ames
    Solar System Tour - BBC
    Mars - New York Times
    Windows...Universe - UMich
    Mars - Apollo Society
    Planetary Society
    Mars Society
    The Nine Planets
    Planet Mars Company
    Solar System - STO
    Solar System Tour
    Artist conception of Mars with water four billion years ago
    Solar System    Search STO    STO Cover    About STO    Questions    Suggestions    Feedback    E-Mail     © 2008 Space Today Online