Sunday, May 25, 2008

Mars probe lands

A NASA spacecraft plunged into the atmosphere of Mars and successfully landed in the Red Planet's northern polar region on Sunday, where it will begin 90 days of digging in the permafrost to look for evidence of the building blocks of life.;_ylt=AmjLwVaiPCaHmrx50VZTgjMPLBIF

The first images transmitted from the lander about two hours after landing showed one of its feet sitting on Martian soil amid tiny rocks and a view of the horizon of the arctic plain. Another image showed that the lander's solar panels had deployed.

Like a tourist in a foreign country, the lander initially will take in the sights during its first week on the Red Planet. It will talk with ground controllers through two Mars orbiters, which will relay data and images.
Phoenix is equipped with an 8-foot-long arm capable of digging trenches in the soil to get to ice that is believed to be buried inches to a foot deep. Then it will analyze the dirt and ice samples for traces of organic compounds, the chemical building blocks of life.

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