This picture shows what an artist thinks Phoenix might look like as it lands on Mars. Phoenix will first use parachutes to slow it down. Just before it reaches the ground it will turn on its retrorockets. Phoenix will land on May 25, 2008.
Click on image for full size
Image courtesy of NASA/JPL-Calech/University of Arizona.

Phoenix Mars Lander

The Phoenix Mars Lander is a spacecraft that NASA has sent to Mars. Phoenix landed near the North Pole of Mars. Scientists think there is water ice just below the surface in that area. If there is water ice there, it might give us clues about the possibility of life on Mars. Phoenix is searching for water ice. If it finds any ice, it will use its instruments to analyze it.

Phoenix blasted off from Florida in August 2007. The spacecraft spent 9 months on its cruise flight to Mars. Phoenix landed on the northern plains of Mars on May 25, 2008. If all goes well, the lander will keep working for at least 90 sols (Martian days; about 92 Earth days). Phoenix uses solar panels to make electricity to keep it running. After about 90 days it will start to be winter at the Martian North Pole, so there will be less and less daylight. As it gets darker, the solar panels will stop making electricity and Phoenix will run out of power and will stop working.

Click here to learn about the instruments on Phoenix and also about the purpose of the lander's mission.

Phoenix landed at 233 East longitude by 68 North latitude on Mars. That's about as far north on the Red Planet as northern Alaska is on Earth. Although lack of sunlight will cause the robot to stop working after a few months, NASA hopes it will last a little while into the Martian winter. If it does, it may be able to watch ice build up on the land around it as winter begins. Dry ice, which is ice made from frozen carbon dioxide instead of water, will form around Phoenix. The lander may get buried in as much as one meter (3 feet) of dry ice!

Last modified May 27, 2008 by Randy Russell.

You might also be interested in:

Cool It! Game

Check out our online store - minerals, fossils, books, activities, jewelry, and household items!...more

The Cryosphere

Frozen water is found in many different places on Earth. Snow blankets the ground at mid and high latitudes during winter. Sea ice and icebergs float in the chilly waters of polar oceans. Ice shelves fringe...more

Phoenix Mars Lander - Instruments and Mission Objectives

The Phoenix Mars Lander was a robot spacecraft that was sent to Mars. Phoenix landed near the North Pole on Mars. This page tells about the mission of Phoenix. It also describes the instruments on the...more

The Four Seasons

The Earth travels around the sun one full time per year. During this year, the seasons change depending on the amount of sunlight reaching the surface and the Earth's tilt as it revolves around the sun....more

Carbon Dioxide - CO2

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a kind of gas. There isn't that much carbon dioxide in Earth's atmosphere, but it is still very important. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. That means it helps trap heat coming...more

Extreme Environments

Extreme environments are places where "normal" life finds it hard to survive. That doesn't mean that there isn't any life in extreme environments. Certain creatures can live and grow in extreme environments....more

Hubble Space Telescope

The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) was one of the most important exploration tools of the past two decades, and will continue to serve as a great resource well into the new millennium. The HST found numerous...more

Apollo 11

Driven by a recent surge in space research, the Apollo program hoped to add to the accomplishments of the Lunar Orbiter and Surveyor missions of the late 1960's. Apollo 11 was the name of the first mission...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA