Thursday, May 27, 2010

Phoenix Mars Lander -- Gone but Not Forgotten

Nearly two years to the day after it landed on the red planet, the Phoenix Mars Lander officially ended operations when NASA failed to contact the spacecraft despite repeated and varied attempts to communicate. Phoenix far outlived its predicted lifespan, surviving the dark, cold, icy winter on Mars. New images from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter showed signs of severe ice damage to the lander’s solar panels.

The passing of Phoenix removes a key exploratory tool from the kit used by University of Michigan engineering Professor Nilton Renno,  whose discovery of liquid water on Mars was named one of Discover magazine's top 100 science stories of 2009 and one of National Geographic's top 10 most popular space stories. His Mars research continues, as does the research of others, but the final signals from Phoenix were a good-bye message from one of the most productive probes that NASA has sent into the Universe.