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
NASA sent a new spacecraft to Mars. It is called the Phoenix Mars Lander. Phoenix landed near the North Pole of Mars. Scientists think there is ice buried under the ground there. Life on Earth needs water. If there is (or ever was) life on Mars, maybe it needs water too. If Phoenix can find water ice on Mars, it might help us know whether there was ever life on Mars. If the robot finds ice, it will use its instruments to "taste" and "smell" it to figure out what kinds of chemicals are mixed in with the ice.
Phoenix blasted off from Florida in August 2007. It took 9 months to get to Mars. Phoenix landed on the northern plains of Mars on May 25, 2008. The lander is supposed to keep working for at least 90 sols (Martian days; about 92 Earth days).
Phoenix uses solar panels to make electricity. That electricity powers the robot. After about 90 days it will start to be winter at the Martian North Pole. Just like on Earth, in the winter the days are shorter and there is less sunlight. As it gets darker, the solar panels will stop making electricity. Phoenix will run out of power and will stop working.
Click here to learn about the instruments on Phoenix and also about the lander's mission.
Phoenix is landed at 68° North latitude on Mars. If that was on Earth, it would be in northern Alaska. NASA hopes Phoenix will last a little while into the Martian winter before it stops working. If it does, it may be able to watch ice build up on the land around it as winter begins. Dry ice will form around Phoenix. Dry ice is made from frozen carbon dioxide instead of water. The lander may get buried in one meter (3 feet) of dry ice!
Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!
Our online store
includes fun classroom activities
for you and your students. Issues of NESTA's quarterly journal, The Earth Scientist
are also full of classroom activities on different topics in Earth and space science!
You might also be interested in:
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 are...more
NASA has a new spaceship on Mars. The robot is called the Phoenix Mars Lander. Phoenix landed near the North Pole on Mars. This page tells about the mission of Phoenix. It also describes the instruments...more
It takes the Earth one year to travel around the sun one time. During this year, there are four seasons: summer, autumn, winter, and spring. Each season depends on the amount of sunlight reaching the...more
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
It is easy for living creatures to survive and grow in some places. Other places make it tough for life to get by. Scientists call places that are hard on life "extreme environments". What kinds of places...more
The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) is really neat! It was first launched in 1990, but scientists started building it in the 1970's! We have found all kinds of objects like stars, nebulae and galaxies. The...more
Apollo 11 was the first mission that landed a person on the moon. On July 16, 1969, the U. S. rocket Saturn 5 was launched carrying the lunar landing module Eagle. The Eagle was released and it reached...more