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Phoenix Mars Lander in Space

Flying the Phoenix spacecraft 420 million miles, then landing it within a 62-mile-long, 12-mile-wide target is like shooting an arrow from Los Angeles' Dodger Stadium and hitting home plate atWrigley Field in Chicago. Trajectory correction maneuvers keep the spacecraft on course as it cruises through space at more than 44,500 mph. See video and find out more at NASA's Phoenix Mars site.

Phoenix Mars Lander Landing

On May 25th, in the final seven minutes of its flight to Mars, Phoenix must perform a challenging series of actions to safely decelerate from nearly 13,000 miles per hour, or 21,000 kilometers per hour. The spacecraft will release a parachute and then pulse thrusters at approximately 3,000 feet, or 914 meters, from the surface to slow to about 5 mph, or 8 kilometers per hour, and land on three legs.

Phoenix Mars Lander Landed

Once on the surface of Mars, a robotic arm will allow Phoenix to explore vertically and to use instruments on the spacecraft deck to analyze samples of Martian soil and ice. Phoenix will dig down to the icy layer. It will examine soil in place at the surface, at the icy layer and in between, and it will scoop up samples for analysis by its on board instruments.

Track Phoenix on its journey to Mars and learn about the science as it happens.

Watch videos about the Phoenix Mars Mission and view the highest resolution images ever captured of the surface of Mars.

This NASA website has information about the Mars Missions for students, teachers and the general public.

Visit the Phoenix Mars Mission: Ashes to Ice site to learn more about the mission.

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About the Program

Phoenix Mars Mission: Onto the Ice

Join Principal Investigator Peter H. Smith and the Phoenix Lander Team in Phoenix Mars Mission: Onto the Ice, a behind-the-scenes look at the first successful landing on the Mars polar region and the beginning of a new era in the search for signs of life on our neighboring planets.

A continuation of the enthralling story of last year's attempted NASA Mars exploration, Phoenix Mars Mission: Onto the Ice documents the difficult journey towards a successful Mars landing, behind the scenes and through the eyes of the people responsible for the mission’s success.

Phoenix Mars Mission: Onto the Ice follows the Phoenix Mars Lander's 422-million mile journey through space. The final destination is a carefully selected landing site in the northern Martian plains. But before the Lander can begin touching, tasting and sniffing Martian soil in search for signs of life, it first must land on the planet safely. From practice landings with simulated devastating malfunctions, through the heart-pounding "seven minutes of terror," decent onto the Red Planet, Phoenix Mars Mission: Onto the Ice follows the international team of talented and dedicated scientists, engineers and researchers as they work to successfully land on Mars and search for signs of life.

The solar powered Phoenix Lander was initially scheduled for a 90 day run on the surface of Mars. The Phoenix team must make every day and every experiment count in the battle with the ever sinking sun. The teams must race to extract every bit of data before the Martian winter plunges temperatures to minus 100 degrees Celsius. And when the lander can no longer phone home and the end of the lander phase of the mission is declared, what will the Phoenix Mars Mission have discovered? And, once the Mars winter is over, will the team be able to resurrect the Mars lander yet again?


Phoenix Mars Lander Logo

Phoenix Mars Mission: Ashes to Ice

Phoenix Mars Mission: Ashes to Ice follows engineers and scientists from all over the world as they race against the clock to have the Phoenix Mars Lander ready for its narrow window of opportunity to blastoff from Cape Canaveral on its way to Mars.

Despite mankind's fascination with Mars, it has proved to be an elusive target. Although more than half the missions to Mars have failed, a new team of dreamers, scientists and engineers is set to try again. Phoenix Mars Mission, led by Principal Investigator Peter Smith of the University of Arizona, is the latest mission seeking to unlock the secrets of the Red Planet. The Phoenix Mars Mission team seeks to verify the presence of water and habitable conditions in the Martian arctic.

Like the Phoenix bird of ancient mythology, the Phoenix Mars Mission is reborn out of fire; this new mission was created from the embers of previous Mars endeavors. Phoenix uses many components of two unsuccessful Mars missions. Phoenix Mars Mission: Ashes to Ice chronicles how scientists and engineers, determined to not repeat the mistakes of the past, endure sleepless nights and countless setbacks to ensure that Phoenixwill rise from the ashes and successfully complete its mission.

Peter Smith

The Phoenix spacecraft is scheduled to land on Mars on Sunday, May 25. After landing, an international team of scientists led by The University of Arizona's Peter Smith will run the robotic mission from the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory's Phoenix Science Operations Center in Tucson, Arizona.

Researchers have mapped more than five million individual rocks in and around the landing region, each big enough to end the mission if hit by the spacecraft during landing. Knowing where to avoid the rockier areas, the team has selected a scientifically exciting target that also offers the best chances for the spacecraft to land safely. See the highest resolution images of Mars at the HiRISE site.

"Our landing area has the largest concentration of ice on Mars outside of the polar caps," Smith said. "If you want to search for a habitable zone in the arctic permafrost, then this is the place to go."