NASA today selected Phoenix, an innovative and relatively low cost mission, to study the red planet, as the first Mars Scout mission. The Phoenix lander mission is
scheduled for launch in 2007.

The 2007 Scout mission joins a growing list of spacecraft
aimed at exploring Mars. It also represents NASA’s first
fully competed opportunity for a dedicated science-driven

“I am excited about the prospect of this compelling mission
and its expected impact to our understanding of Mars. I look
forward to a successful definition phase, so that it can be
confirmed for implementation,” said Dr. Ed Weiler, Associate
Administrator for Space Science at NASA Headquarters,
Washington. Weiler selected this mission from a group of
four candidate missions following a competition over the
past year. “This first Scout mission will explore the red
planet in a unique way, and may mark the beginning of a line
of innovative, competitively selected and lower-cost
missions in the Mars Exploration Program,” he said.

Phoenix, designed to land in the high northern latitudes of
Mars, will follow up on Mars Odyssey’s spectacular discovery
of near-surface water ice in such regions. It will land in
terrain suspected of harboring as much as 80 percent water
ice by volume within one foot of the surface, and conduct
the first subsurface analysis of ice-bearing materials on
another planet.

The Phoenix lander includes an instrument suite designed to
completely characterize the accessible ice, soil, rock, and
local atmosphere using state-of-the-art methods. Included in
the instrument payload are microscopic imaging systems
capable of examining materials at scales down to 10
nanometers (i.e., 1000 times less than the width of a human
hair), while others will investigate whether organic
molecules are contained in ice or soil samples.

Upon final descent, an innovative camera system will
photograph the Phoenix landing site just before it touches
down in late 2008. A powerful robotic arm will dig down into
the soil and ice-rich ground as deep at 3.3 feet, while
imaging with a camera mounted on the arm itself.

Principal Investigator, Dr. Peter Smith of the University of
Arizona, Tucson, Ariz., leads the Phoenix mission in a
partnership with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL),
Pasadena, Calif., and Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver.
In addition, the Canadian Space Agency is contributing a
meteorological package that includes a lidar sensor to study
polar climate.

“NASA’s Mars Exploration Program continues its exciting,
science-driven exploration of Mars by extending the quest
for evidence of life using new vantage points, and by
measuring the previously un-measurable,” said Dr. Jim
Garvin, the Mars Scout Program Scientist at NASA
Headquarters. “Phoenix exemplifies this approach by seeking
clues about habitats by landing a remarkable laboratory in
known ice-rich polar regions”, Garvin added.

The Mars Scout program is designed to complement major
missions being planned as part of NASA’s Mars Exploration
Program, as well as those under development by foreign space
agencies, within a total mission cost cap of $325 million.
The Mars Scout Program is managed by JPL for NASA’s Office
of Space Science, Washington.

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