NASA concludes Mars lander programme

November 11th, 2008 - 7:39 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Nov 11 (RIA Novosti) US space agency NASA said Tuesday its Phoenix Mars Lander had ceased communications after operating for more than five months on the red planet, and announced the termination of the successful space exploration project. Launched Aug 4, 2007, Phoenix landed on the Martian surface May 25, 2008. The $420-million mission lasted much longer than the planned three months, and verified the presence of water-ice in the Martian subsurface, among other important scientific findings.

“Phoenix provided an important step to spur the hope that we can show Mars was once habitable and possibly supported life,” said Doug McCuistion, NASA director of the Mars Exploration Program.

According to NASA: “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’s cameras also returned more than 25,000 pictures of the Martian surface.

NASA experts last received a signal from the lander Nov 2 and concluded that “the seasonal decline in sunshine at the robot’s arctic landing site is not providing enough sunlight for the solar arrays to collect the power necessary to charge batteries that operate the lander’s instruments.”

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