Phoenix Heads for Mars, Spacecraft Healthy The Phoenix spacecraft has separated from the Delta II rocket and ground controllers at NASA's Deep Space Network .
Phoenix was a robotic spacecraft on a space exploration mission on Mars under the Mars Scout Program. The Phoenix lander descended on Mars on May 25, 2008. Mission scientists used instruments aboard the lander to search for environments suitable for microbial life on Mars, and to research the history of water there.
The multi-agency program was headed by the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona, under the direction of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The program was a partnership of universities in the United States, Canada, Switzerland, Denmark, Germany, the United Kingdom, NASA, the Canadian Space Agency, the Finnish Meteorological Institute, Lockheed Martin Space Systems, MacDonald Dettwiler & Associates (MDA) and other aerospace companies. It was the first mission in NASA history led by a public university. The mission also underscored the value of university-led management. This was the first such NASA mission to Mars and it was led by the University of Arizona, a public university, and run directly from the University's campus in Tucson, with project management at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., and project development at Lockheed Martin in Denver, Colorado. The operational funding for the mission extended through November 10, 2008.
Phoenix is NASA's sixth successful landing out of the twelve attempts (seven American, four Soviet/Russian, and one British) that have reached the planet to date (at least two other Russian attempts failed before leaving earth orbit), and is the most recent spacecraft to land successfully on Mars (as of December, 2008). It is also the first successful landing in a Martian polar region. The lander last made a brief communication with Earth on November 2, and the mission was declared concluded on November 10, 2008, after engineers were unable to re-contact the craft.