Exploring the Planets

The Phoenix Mission

To better understand water near the surface, NASA's Phoenix spacecraft landed in 2008. The lander had a robotic arm to dig below the surface and a chemical laboratory to measure soil properties.

Phoenix gathered data for five months. It found water ice in a subsurface layer, snow falling from clouds, and evidence of calcium carbonate in the soil, indicating the presence of water in the past. Analysis of these findings may answer questions about the history of water on Mars and its relation to the habitability of the Martian environment.

Phoenix collected over 400 images to produce this 360-degree panoramic view of its frigid arctic landing site.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/Texas A&M University image


Phoenix uncovered lumps thought to be ice in the lower left-hand corner of the trench called Dodo-Goldilocks. Four days later, the lumps disappeared, confirming they were indeed ice.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/Texas A&M University image

Ice on Mars