The Phoenix lander has successfully touched down on Mars. The lander carries a CD which includes the names of my children.
This was the first successful soft landing on Mars for 32 years. The lander has landed in really flat in a northern Arctic region called Vastitas Borealis. The Lander is also facing east-west as planned. The solar panels have successfully deployed, and the first images of the Martian North Pole have come back relayed through Mars Oddessy. It’s pretty featureless (well, that was the point, they wanted to land somewhere safe and flat). More images can be found at the Phoenix Gallery. So far there are lots of shots of the lander and the surrounding terrain. These are mostly black and white images mostly to confirm the lander is okay and everything is working. There are also some colour images.
When all instrument checks are completed the lander will extend its robotic arm and dig through the protective top soil layer to the water ice expected to be below. Both soil and water ice will be returned to the lander platform for analysis. Hopefully this information will provide insights into the following questions: can the Martian Arctic subsurface support life, what is the history of water at the landing site, and finally, how is the Martian climate affected by polar dynamics?
We will all be watching the Phoenix lander intently over the next 90 days.