Well people they pulled it off, a flawlessly performed landing on the Martian surface at 7:53 pm EDT Sunday May 25th. by the Phoenix Mars Lander. The image above was taken by the onboard telescope from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, it is the lander parachuting to the surface. This was the first successful use of parachutes and thrusters, or what they call a power landing since the Viking missions in 1976.
The Phoenix lander (above image taken by the MRO) has onboard scientific instruments to determine whether ice and water on top of or just below the surface could have ever supported life. NASA'S Mars exploration program has 4 main goals.
1: Determine whether life ever arose on Mars.
2: Characterize the climate of Mars.
3: Characterize the geology of Mars.
4: Prepare for Human exploration.
The Phoenix lander has two main objectives.
1: Study the history of water in the Martian arctic.
2: Search for evidence of a habitable zone and assess the biological potential of the ice-soil boundary.
I watched NASA TV for most of Sunday, very exciting, my pulse was racing those 7 minutes during descent and landing. Why am I so excited, and why should you care? Baby steps my friends, that's what space exploration is all about, we ain't gonna be warping to some far off galaxy anytime soon, but every little bit of progress helps us, so that one day we can reach for the stars.
I don't just see a lander on Mars gathering ice water, I see a successful completion of a step needed to get us on our way to the outer reaches of the galaxy, nay the universe. Earth is a great place and all, but we only have a limited time before our life supply burns out. Estimates range anywhere from half to a few billion years before our Sun will no longer be able to support us, we have to do what we can to propagate our species, or we can just give up and become extinct.
God gave us all the tools we need to complete this objective; curiosity, intelligence, why else did God create the cosmos?, has to be a reason, so many unanswered questions, so little time. I think we are in exciting times, sure I wish I had been born about 300 years from now, I need more technology, like a Holodeck or Replicator, but with our ever expanding space exploration programs and what I think is the most exciting thing to happen in science in a long time; the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, we are setting ourselves up for some of the greatest discoveries of humankind.
I'll leave you now with an animated Moonrise taken a few days ago.