The NASA Mars Phoenix Lander is the
first Mars Scout programme mission.
It was launched from
Kennedy Space Center on 4 August 2007. The Phoenix lander
descended on Mars on May 25, 2008.
The mission was named Phoenix in
recognition that it follows two earlier missions: the 2001 Mars
Surveyor lander (cancelled in 2000) and the Mars Polar Lander
(lost on Mars in 1999). Phoenix means 'rises from ashes' and is
the name for the
resilient mythological bird.
Many of the scientific instruments for
Phoenix were built or designed for these spacecraft. The 2001 Mars Surveyor lander had been kept in
storage at a Lockheed Martin clean room at Sunnyvale, California.
The cost of the Phoenix mission is $386 million,
which includes the launch. The partnership developing the Phoenix
mission includes: the University of Arizona, NASA's Jet Propulsion
Laboratory, Lockheed Martin Space Systems in
Denver (built spacecraft) and the Canadian Space Agency, which is providing
Peter H. Smith of the
University of Arizona,
Lunar and Planetary
Laboratory heads the Phoenix mission.
The aim of the mission is:
explore the Martian arctic soils
for possible indicators of life,
past or present.
2. To examine potential habitats for water ice.
3. To enhance our
understanding of Martian atmospheric processes.
measure volatiles, such as water and organic molecules in the
northern polar region of Mars.
The Mars Phoenix
Phoenix is a stationary lander. It
will land on the icy northern pole of Mars
between 65 and 75 north latitude.
region is comparable to the permafrost regions of the Earth.
The lander design has the capability for guided entry and hazard
During the course of the 150
Martian day mission, Phoenix will deploy its robotic arm and dig
trenches up to half a metre (1.6 feet) into the layers of water
samples to the onboard laboratory for geological and chemical
Imaging technology inherited from both the Pathfinder
and Mars Exploration Rover missions will be used in
Phoenix's stereo camera, located on its 2 metre (6.6 foot) mast.
The camera's two "eyes" will reveal a high-resolution perspective
of the landing site's geology and will provide range maps
that will enable the team to choose ideal digging locations.
Multi-spectral capability will enable the identification of local
Phoenix will also scan the Martian atmosphere up to 20
kilometres (12.4 miles) in altitude, obtaining data about the
formation, duration and movement of clouds, fog and dust plumes.
It will also carry temperature and pressure sensors.
Instruments on Mars Phoenix Lander include:
1. Mars Descent Imager (MARDI) - built by Malin
Space Science Systems. MARDI plays a key science role during
Phoenix's descent to the Martian arctic.
2. Surface Stereoscopic Imager (SSI) -
built by the University of Arizona. SSI will serve as Phoenix's
"eyes" for the mission, providing high-resolution, stereoscopic,
panoramic images of the Martian arctic.
3. Thermal and Evolved Gas Analyzer (TEGA) -built by
the University of Arizona and University of Texas, Dallas. TEGA is
a combination high-temperature furnace and mass spectrometer
instrument that scientists will use to analyze Martian ice and
4. Microscopy, Electrochemistry, and
Conductivity Analyzer (MECA) - built by the Jet Propulsion
Laboratory. MECA is a combination of several scientific
instruments including a wet chemistry laboratory, optical and
atomic force microscopes, and a thermal and electrical
5. Meteorological Station (MET) - built
by the Canadian Space Agency. Throughout the course of Phoenix
surface operations, MET will record the daily weather of the
Martian northern plains.
6. Robotic Arm (RA) - built by the Jet
Propulsion Laboratory. The RA is critical to the operations of the
Phoenix lander and is designed to dig trenches, scoop up soil and
water ice samples and deliver these samples to the TEGA and MECA
instruments for detailed chemical and geological analysis.
7. Robotic Arm Camera (RAC) - built by
the University of Arizona and Max Planck Institute, Germany. The
RAC is attached to the Robotic Arm (RA) just above the scoop.
* NASA announced the
Mars Scout 2002 Announcement of Opportunity on May 1, 2002.
The Mars Scout competition was designed to augment or
complement, but not duplicate, major missions being planned
as part of NASA's Mars Exploration Program or those under
development by foreign space agencies. The selected Scout
science mission was to be ready for launch before December 31,
2007, within a total mission cost cap of $325 million.
* 25 proposals were submitted to NASA in August 2002 in response
to Announcement of Opportunity. Each received up to $500,000 to
conduct a six month implementation feasibility study focused on
cost, management and technical plans, including educational
outreach and small business involvement.
On December 6, 2002 NASA selected four Mars mission concepts for
The four selected mission concepts and the Principal Investigators
1. SCIM (Sample Collection for Investigation of Mars):
Professor Laurie Leshin, Arizona State University, Tempe.
Using aerogel and a "free-return trajectory" to bring the
samples back to Earth. Samples could provide
breakthrough understanding of the chemistry of Mars, its
surface, atmosphere, interior evolution and potential
2. ARES (Aerial Regional-scale Environmental Survey):
Levine, NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va.
offered to provide the first in situ measurements of the near-surface atmospheric chemistry within the Mars planetary-boundary layer, thereby providing critical clues to the
chemical evolution of the planet, climate history, and
potential biological activity.
Dr. Peter Smith, University of Arizona, Tucson.
To conduct a stationary, in situ investigation of volatiles
(especially water), organic molecules and modern climate.
4. MARVEL (Mars Volcanic Emission and Life Scout):
Allen, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.
To conduct a global survey of the Martian
atmosphere's photochemistry to search for emissions that
could be related to active volcanism or microbial activity,
as well as to track the behavior of water in the atmosphere
across a full annual cycle.
* NASA chose Phoenix for full development as the first Mars Scout
mission on August 4, 2003.
On June 2 2005
NASA gave the green light to allow the Phoenix mission to
proceed with preparing the spacecraft for launch in August 2007.
This major milestone followed a critical review of the project's
planning progress and preliminary design, since its selection in
The NASA Scout program is an
initiative for smaller, lower-cost, competed spacecraft. Scouts
are innovative and relatively low-cost complements to the core
missions of NASA's Mars exploration program.
Phoenix was the first Mars Scout
The Mars Scout Program is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California for the Office of Space
- The previous NASA
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter which was launched in 2005.
Phoenix will be followed by
Mars Science Laboratory.
- In 2002, the NASA Mars Odyssey orbiter
found evidence of ice rich soil near the surface in the artic
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