Wow - as we start to get pictures back from Mars and begin some new exploration of soil and other environmental aspects of the Red Planet I can't help but think of the tremendous asset this type of exploration means to our ever growing base of knowledge about the universe.
After a flawless descent and touchdown, the probe provided the first glimpse of the planet's polar regions - an icy, flat and barren landscape dotted with small rocks and marked by polygonal patterns similar to those seen in arctic areas of Earth.Another interesting thing about this mission is that while the Phoenix Mars lander is on the planet's surface there is also another probe orbiting the planet (NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter) which has taken pictures from above of the Phoenix on the ground. NASA's Phoenix The Mars Lander can be seen parachuting down to Mars, in this image below captured by the high-resolution camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
Delighted mission controllers said the photographs suggested the probe had touched down on what appeared to be an ideal spot to begin its three-month quest to discover whether the planet's arctic plains could once have been habitable.
The probe is now checking onboard instruments after is nine-month, 422 million mile journey before digging down in search for life-supporting chemicals in the planet's permafrost.
That is so cool.
The New York Times featured this this article.
Find out more about the Phoenix project at NASA's website