First-ever pictures of Mars' polar region revealed


This image shows a portion of the Phoenix Mars Lander and the Martian surface after it landed on the planet on Sunday, May 25, 2008.

This image shows a polygonal pattern in the ground near NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander, similar in appearance to icy ground in the arctic regions of Earth. It was taken after Phoenix touched down on Sunday, May 25, 2008.


The first-ever pictures of Mars' northern polar region have been sent back to Earth following the successful soft landing of the Phoenix Mars Lander.

On Sunday evening, Phoenix ripped through the Martian atmosphere at nearly 21,000 kilometres per hour, before slowing itself down with a parachute while using reverse thrusters to land.

Within two hours of landing, a flood of images sent back by Phoenix revealed a landscape similar to Earth's permafrost regions. The pictures show the soil with geometric patterns, which are likely related to the freezing and thawing of ground ice.

The polygon-cracked terrain is believed to hold a reservoir of ice beneath the surface.

"This is a scientist's dream, right here on this landing site," principal investigator Peter Smith of the University of Arizona, Tucson said in a post-landing news conference.

Phoenix landed on Mars following a 10-month, 679-million kilometre journey through space.
NASA scientists are now checking the instruments on Phoenix to make sure they're all in working order.

"Tomorrow we can expect the 7.7-foot robotic arm (on Phoenix) to actually begin digging into the ice on Mars and it will start to transmit some of the data back to earth," CNN's Thelma Gutierrez told CTV's Canada AM on Monday from Pasadena, Calif.

The probe is designed to study the planet's northern climate and whether the environment is suitable for life. A crucial part of Phoenix is a Canadian-designed weather station, which cost $37 million.

The weather station has a lidar -- an acronym for Light Detection and Ranging -- that will beam a laser beam into the atmosphere. The light will scatter particles and be reflected back to sensors in the weather station, giving scientists an idea of how Martian weather works.

More than half of all missions to land probes on the Red Planet have ended in failure. In 2003, the European Space Agency launched the Beagle 2 lander to Mars, but lost contact before it reached the planet.

In 1999, NASA's Mars Polar Lander had engine problems before reaching the planet's South Pole and it crashed.

NASA engineers studied what went wrong with the Polar Lander and tried to anticipate any more potential problems when designing Phoenix.

Phoenix cost about $420 million in total. The project was overseen by Jet Propulsion Laboratory and led by the University of Arizona.

I think not
It won't be long now before the American Imperial aspirations eye upon the moon and beyond. It's great to be alive in the 21st century.

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