Nasa Declares Phoenix Mars Lander Dead

05.25.10 |

Two years after the Mars landing craft Phoenix landed on the Red Planet, NASA has shut down the project. Phoenix was a solar-powered probe about the size of a minivan. It landed on Mars May 25th, 2008, and collected and analyzed soil samples, looking for signs of life for five months. The probe stopped communicating when winter fell on its location, plunging the craft into super-cold darkness for nearly two years.

 NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter has flown over and signaled the Phoenix 61 times, unsuccessfully trying to wake the machine up. A new image transmitted to Earth by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter showed signs of severe ice damage to the lander's solar panels. The space agency says Phoenix did make one starting discovery. It found perchlorate, an oxidizing chemical in the Martian soil. It's known to nourish some microbes but is potentially toxic to others.

 There are still two NASA machines operating on the surface of Mars. The rovers Spirit and Opportunity. The two arrived on the planet in early 2004 and have outlasted their design lives by several years. Spirit has been mired in a sand dune since last year, after covering about five miles of the planet's surface. Opportunity is still rolling around, sending new information back after traveling nearly 13 miles from its original landing site.