We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

A View from Kristina Grifantini

Phoenix Landing

Mars spacecraft successfully reaches red planet’s arctic.

  • May 27, 2008

The Phoenix Mars Mission, which launched last August, completed its roughly 423-million-mile journey on Sunday night, with a successful landing on Mars’s polar cap. After a smooth landing, the 18-foot-long lander has relayed back 100-some images of its surroundings, as well as of itself and its shadow.

There have been many spacecraft sent to Mars, but most have failed; the last attempt to land on a Martian polar cap failed in 1999, when Mars Polar Lander lost communication as it descended to the planet.

Phoenix will look for signs of past habitability by trying to characterize the history of water on Mars and by looking for biological components in the soil. The spacecraft, powered by solar arrays, will use a nearly eight-foot-long arm to dig about a foot and a half beneath the surface, where scientists expect (based on data from the Mars Odyssey orbiter) vast sheets of ice to lie. An impressive array of cameras, sensors, and microscopes will monitor the environment and analyze the icy soil samples. Phoenix has roughly three months to complete its mission, before Martian winter sets in, freezing the spacecraft in solid carbon dioxide.

Want to go ad free? No ad blockers needed.

Become an Insider
Already an Insider? Log in.
More from Intelligent Machines

Artificial intelligence and robots are transforming how we work and live.

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Plus.
  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus the digital magazine, extensive archive, ad-free web experience, and discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events.

    See details+

    Print + Digital Magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

    Technology Review PDF magazine archive, including articles, images, and covers dating back to 1899

    10% Discount to MIT Technology Review events and MIT Press

    Ad-free website experience

You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.