On This Day: Phoenix Launched to Mars 

Posted on Thu, August 4, 2016

On this day in 2007, the Mars Phoenix lander was launched from a Delta II at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. Phoenix flew to a site in the far northern plains of Mars where it analyzed components of the surface, subsurface, and atmosphere.

It used a trench digging arm and a set of analytical tools to study water believed to be frozen in the soil just below the surface. It also checked for the presence of organic compounds as part of an evaluation of whether the site had once been a favorable environment for microbial life.

  • Image of Phoenix Lander launching from Delta Rocket

    A Delta II rocket lit up the early morning sky as it carried the Phoenix spacecraft on the first leg of its journey to Mars. Image: NASA

  • Black and white photo of the lander's leg on the Martian surface.

    This image shows the American flag and a mini-DVD on the Phoenix’s deck. The mini-DVD contains a message to future Martian explorers, science fiction stories, art inspired by the red planet, and the names of a quarter million Earthlings. Image: NASA

  • A 360 view around the rover, which is blacked out in the center.

    Combining more than 400 images, NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander views its surroundings in the Red Planet's northernmost region.

On May 25, 2010, the Phoenix Mars Lander ended operations after repeated attempts to contact the spacecraft were unsuccessful.

Exploring Space Lecture

Phoenix’s Arctic Adventure

After 5 months on the surface of Mars, the approaching Martian winter brought about Phoenix's demise, but not before it found water ice, studied the soil chemistry, and observed a snowfall. Learn what Phoenix taught us about water, climate cycles, and habitability on Mars from Peter Smith, the principal investigator for the Phoenix Mars Lander mission.

Watch the Lecture