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ScienceShot: Mars Phoenix Lander Frozen Solid

24 May 2010 5:17 pm
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NASA/JPL/UA/Lockheed Martin

One of NASA's three probes on the red planet has cashed in. Two years ago tomorrow, the Phoenix Mars Lander plopped down near the north pole, and for 5 months it transmitted data indicating the onetime presence of water beneath the frozen surface. Then the long and dark Martian winter interrupted communications. When spring returned last year, NASA mission controllers attempted to reestablish contact with the solar-powered probe, but 211 tries failed to detect a signal. Now, images taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter tell the tale. Not only is the lander buried by hundreds of kilograms of frozen carbon dioxide, but most likely, scientists reported today, the weight of the ice has broken off the solar panels, rendering Phoenix a relic—and maybe a candidate for display in a Martian museum by residents in some future, distant year.

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