NASA’s long-dormant Phoenix Mars Lander has been written off as lost with new images taken by an orbiting probe showing severe damage to the spacecraft’s solar panels due to the harsh martian winter.
Repeated attempts by NASA in recent months to re-establish contact with Phoenix following its winter hibernation were unsuccessful.
The new photos of Phoenix, sent by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, indicate that the lander has suffered serious ice damage to at least one of its solar panels, NASA officials said May 24.
The discovery led NASA to declare that Phoenix has officially ended its prolonged mission.
“The Phoenix spacecraft succeeded in its investigations and exceeded its planned lifetime,” said Fuk Li, manager of the Mars Exploration Program at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. “Although its work is finished, analysis of information from Phoenix’s science activities will continue for some time to come.”
Phoenix touched down in the arctic plains of Vastitas Borealis in Mars’ northern hemisphere on May 25, 2008, and spent several months digging up the martian soil, confirming the presence of water ice beneath the planet surface.