I wouldn't say I've been holding my breath, but it still did come as quite a relief to learn that the Phoenix has landed successfully on Mars. There were no bouncing bags on this mission as like those which made the two Mars Rovers landings so successful. This one came down standing, as it were.
Now, to the mission.
First Phoenix images reveal 'quilted' Martian terrainOn a timely note; I think that this landing on Mars is an incredibly significant Memorial to the men and women who've given their lives so that people could continue to freely discover all that our universe has to offer. There are so many reasons to hate War, and so many more to be grateful to the Warriors who have fought and sacrificed for their countries. I hope that, going into the depths of our Solar system, we have ever less need for such sacrifices, and ever more opportunities for Heroes to be made sans killing.
Phoenix is designed to dig down to the ice and search for traces of organic residue that might indicate whether this part of Mars could have been habitable in the past.
Prior to this evening, NASA's recent successes – including Mars Pathfiner in 1997 and the two Mars Exploration Rovers in 2004 – have all bounced to the surface of the Red Planet encased in inflatable air bags.
Phoenix and future missions, including the more ambitious Mars Science Laboratory, were designed to land with thrusters, considered a must for heavier payloads – and for any future attempt to send astronauts on Mars.
"The way we're going to land humans on Mars is with propulsive systems and landing legs," said Ed Weiler, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate.
Fighting Ignorance, not each other, is what missions such as this one are all about.