NASA's Mars lander completes mission


  • Randy Showstack


After 5 months of providing scientists with a better understanding of Mars, and 2 months beyond the planned operational life, instruments on NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander are no longer receiving sufficient energy to operate due to an autumnal decline in sunlight reaching the lander's solar arrays, the agency announced on 10 November. The lander's last signal was received on 2 November, and scientists will be listening for any additional signals should the lander revive.

Since touching down on Mars on 25 May 2008, lander instruments verified the presence of water ice in the Martian subsurface. The lander has taken more than 25,000 pictures, among other accomplishments. Transmitted data have helped scientists learn more about the planet's arctic environment and whether it has ever been favorable for microbes. “Phoenix has given us some surprises, and I'm confident we will be pulling more gems from this trove of data for years to come,” said Phoenix principal investigator Peter Smith of the University of Arizona, in Tucson, which leads the mission.