I was very glad to see this
Phoenix should never have been shelved for 8 years
because the Mars (South) Polar Lander failed anyway. About time.
NASA to launch Mars 'Phoenix' in 2007
NASA will in 2007 launch a new Mars mission that will land this time on the red planet's chilly north pole in search of water in the form of ice, and
hopefully traces of life both past and present.
The US space agency, buoyed by the success of the Spirit and Opportunity Mars rovers, which found sites believed to have once contained water that may
have been home to organisms living some time in the past, gave the green light on Thursday to the 2007 Phoenix Mars Lander mission.
The goal is to launch the Phoenix in August 2007, with an expected Mars landing in May 2008, NASA said in a statement posted on its website.
"In the continuing pursuit of water on Mars, the poles are a good place to probe, as water ice is found there," said the space agency.
"Phoenix will land on the icy northern pole of Mars between 65 and 75-north latitude. During the course of the 150 Martian day mission, Phoenix will
deploy its robotic arm and dig trenches up to half a metre into the layers of water ice.
"These layers, thought to be affected by seasonal climate changes, could contain organic compounds that are necessary for life."
In 2002, the orbiter Odyssey flew over Mars and spotted signs of large quantities of ice in the area, NASA noted.
Phoenix will be the first mission on Mars as part of the Scout program, consisting of low-budget studies of the red planet. NASA estimated the cost of
the exploration, including the launch, at $US386 million ($510 million).
NASA believes the upper layer of Martian ice is the most affected by changes in seasonal climate, and could contain the organic components necessary
To analyse samples taken by the lander, Phoenix will have a portable laboratory. Some samples will be heated to release components, NASA said.
Using the same methods as previous missions such as the Mars Pathfinder, Phoenix will be equipped with a double-lens panoramic camera, which can take
high-resolution pictures of the geology of the site where the exploration vehicle lands.
Phoenix also has instruments that can see and analyse Mars's atmosphere to an altitude of 20,000 metres for data on the formation of clouds and their
Phoenix had already been built as part of the Mars Surveyor project in 2001.
But, with the loss of Mars Polar in 1999 while it was attempting to land near Mars's southern pole, NASA decided to end that program.
The Phoenix Lander, thoroughly checked out by Lockheed Martin in Denver, Colorado, has been taken out of mothballs for this mission.
During the next two years, scientists in charge of the Phoenix program will carry out trials of the Lander and of all its instruments.
They will also choose a site for landing in the northern polar region, based on information that the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, to be launched in
August 2005, will transmit.
The orbiter will carry high precision cameras able to photograph objects as small as a plate.
All these missions are part of the long-term space ambitions President George W Bush announced in early 2004, one of which is to send a manned mission
to Mars, preceded by man's return to the Moon by 2020.