10 November 2008
Well, it’s official. Phoenix is dead. JPL sent out a press release today announcing that after more than five months, they stopped hearing from the lander on Nov 2 and have been unable to re-establish contact. Although the mission is over, I’m sure that science results will continue to be announced as the team finally has time to sit down and really analyze the data. Here’s a quick summary from the press release of the mission’s science accomplishments:
Phoenix’s preliminary science accomplishments advance the goal of studying whether the Martian arctic environment has ever been favorable for microbes. Additional findings include documenting a mildly alkaline soil environment unlike any found by earlier Mars missions; finding small concentrations of salts that could be nutrients for life; discovering perchlorate salt, which has implications for ice and soil properties; and finding calcium carbonate, a marker of effects of liquid water.
Phoenix findings also support the goal of learning the history of water on Mars. These findings include excavating soil above the ice table, revealing at least two distinct types of ice deposits; observing snow descending from clouds; providing a mission-long weather record, with data on temperature, pressure, humidity and wind; observations of haze, clouds, frost and whirlwinds; and coordinating with NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to perform simultaneous ground and orbital observations of Martian weather.
Phoenix wrote a farewell note, to be published when the mission ended. Here’s an excerpt:
If you are reading this, then my mission is probably over.
This final entry is one that I asked be posted after my mission team announces they’ve lost contact with me. Today is that day and I must say good-bye, but I do it in triumph and not in grief.
As I’ve said before, there’s no other place I’d rather be than here. My mission lasted five months instead of three, and I’m content knowing that I worked hard and accomplished great things during that time. My work here is done, but I leave behind a legacy of images and data.