NASA Spacecraft to Attempt Landing on Mars

May 25, 2008 at 11:08 pm | Posted in space | Leave a comment
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http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/26/science/26mars.html?ref=us

The spacecraft enters the Martian atmosphere at 7:30 p.m. Eastern time Sunday evening and is to settle down on the surface seven minutes later. News of its arrival would take 15 minutes and 20 seconds — the time for the radio signal to traverse the 171 million miles from Mars to Earth — to reach mission controllers here.

The landing site is north of Mars’ arctic circle, and the mission is to provide the first upclose exploration o

Mars’ polar regions. NASA’s orbiting Odyssey spacecraft discovered in 2002 vast quantities of water ice lying a few inches beneath the surface in Mars’ polar regions. On Phoenix, a robotic arm with a scoop at the end will dig into the permafrost terrain into the ice. Analyzing the soil and ice will provide clues whether the ice ever melted and whether this region was habitable for life.

“We see Phoenix as a stepping stone to future investigations of Mars,” said Peter H. Smith of the University of Arizona, the principal investigator of the mission.

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