Phoenix Mars Mission
NASA's Phoenix mission was a robotic mission, the first lander in NASA's "Scout class". The lander landed in Mars' north polar region on May 25th 2008, and the scientific package aimed to answer the questions:
- Can the Martian arctic support life?
- What is the history of water at the landing site?
- How is the Martian climate affected by polar dynamics?
The mission name derives from several components built previously for cancelled missions, including 2001's Mars Surveyor lander.
The mission was of considerable interest to planners of human missions to Mars, as many practical mission designs assume the availability of easily-extractable water for fuel production and industrial processes. The polar regions were expected to be the most likely places to find water ice.
Phoenix was launched on 4th August 2007 on a Delta II 7925 rocket, and the scheduled landing on Mars on 25th May 2008 was successful. The landing site was the ice-capped northern polar region. Although the primary mission was expected to last around 90 sols, the lander was working 152 sols. The last transmission was received on November 2nd, 2008 by the project team.
Phoenix has confirmed the presence of water ice in the Martian soil. The soil contains small amounts of salt (perchlorate salt, calcium carbonate). The mildly alkaline soil environment provides good conditions for growing plants.