If you’re trying this link shortly after I post it, you probably won’t get thru – which seems to indicate a fairly high degree of interest in this mission. More surprisingly, they are apparently already getting pictures back!
More images inside…
(I give up trying to fight WordPress at this point; the image poster isn’t working under IE6 or IE7 and it’s just barely co-operating under Firefox)
So the aim of the Phoenix lander is to land at the Martian north pole and examine the permafrost. It’s got a little scooper that it’s going to use to dig into the ground and pick up scoops of soil, and hopefully ice, to examine. There is water ice up there.
But the last part of the Phoenix descent programme involved using thrusters to bring it to a gentle landing. I can’t help but wonder, don’t rocket exhausts tend to be warm, and wouldn’t warming the ground up under the lander tend to make it … not icy?
After landing, they also purge the helium tanks. Won’t that modify the surrounding environment?
Lastly … I have been itching to ask this: If the evidence is against there having been life on Mars, when is it time to go ahead and start trying to contaminate one of our neighboring planets?