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Phoenix Mars Lander should arrive as scheduled

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Latest update : 2008-05-27

NASA has reported that the Phoenix probe should land on Mars on May 25th, as planned, after a nine-month-trip. The probe's mission is to dig for signs of life in the soil and ice in the arctic region of the planet.

 

A US space probe sent to Mars to dig for signs of life is nearing the end of its nine-month voyage and should touch down on the Red Planet on schedule, NASA said Tuesday.

The Phoenix Mars Lander, which blasted off from Cape Canaveral last August, is on course to reach the planet on May 25, where it will attempt to make a hazardous descent onto the Martian surface.

"This is not a trip to grandma's house. Putting a spacecraft safely on Mars is hard and risky," said Ed Weiler, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "Internationally, fewer than half the attempts have succeeded."

NASA have used high resolution images from a camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to help select a landing site for the Phoenix.

The lander's assignment is to dig through the Martian soil and ice in the arctic region and use its onboard scientific instruments to analyze the samples it retrieves.

Phoenix is likely to face Martian temperatures that range from minus 73 degrees Celsius (minus 99 degrees Fahrenheit) to minus 33 C (minus 27 F).

Once it lands, the probe will deploy a set of research tools never before used on the planet.

The solar-powered craft is equipped with a 2.35 meter (7.5 foot) robotic arm that will enter vertically into the soil, aiming to strike the icy crust that is believed to lie within a few inches of the surface.

The Phoenix's robotic arm will lift soil samples to two instruments on its deck. One instrument will check for water and carbon-based chemicals, considered essential building blocks for life, while the other will analyze the soil chemistry.

Many scientists see signs of ancient rivers and oceans on the arid and sterile surface of Mars, and believe the planet may once have harbored some forms of life.

Date created : 2008-05-14

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