Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Phoenix Mars Lander mission wrap-up

The UA Phoenix Mars Lander team summarized the successes of the mission today, as Mars moved behind the sun and out of communications with Earth for the next few weeks. The Lander operated 151 days on Mars until its last signal on November 2. [right, artists rendition. Credit, UA]

Scientific accomplishments included:
  • Touching water ice on Mars for the first time
  • Taking 25,000 pictures, including the first from an atomic force microscope on another planet
  • Compiling a complete weather record that covered every Martian day, or sol, of the mission
  • Finding that soil at the landing site is alkaline and contains carbonates and clays, which on Earth means water was there once
  • Finding small concentrations of salts (nutrients for life) and perchlorate (energy source for microbes on Earth) in the soil
Awards include:
  • 2007 and 2008 Governor's Innovator of the Year Award in the academia category to UA for leading the Phoenix mission
  • Popular Mechanics magazine's 2008 Breakthrough Award for Innovation
  • 2008 Civil Space Award from the California Space Authority
  • 2008 National Space Club Astronautics Engineer Award
  • Popular Science magazine's 2008 Best of What's New Grand Award in the aviation and space category
A lot of the science is still to be done as the UA team and collaborators work with the massive data collected over the past 5 months.

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