Arizona

Event Photography: Phoenix Mars Lander Scores a Touchdown

Yesterday afternoon was a tense time on the University of Arizona campus. The UA-led Phoenix Mars mission was nearing a significant milestone: The end of its 10-month journey to the Red Planet.

I was among the hundreds of people who converged on the UA Mall to watch NASA TV coverage of the landing on the Martian surface…

Event photography - Watching NASA TV coverage of the Phoenix Mars Lander mission

Some of us were old enough to remember previous space flights gone horribly wrong — like the near-loss of Apollo 13 back in 1970, the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion in 1986, and the Mars Polar Lander’s crash-landing and destruction in 1999. We hoped that nothing like that would happen this time.

And so we waited…

Event photography - Awaiting news of the Phoenix Mars Lander's touchdown

Then came the news: Phoenix had touched down on Mars and had established radio contact!

Event photography - Applauding Phoenix Mars Lander's touchdown

Many people left right after the landing, but I decided to stay around to catch a glimpse of the sun through a telescope outside the UA Science Center. This scope was a popular family attraction…

Event photography - Viewing the sun through a telescope

After Phoenix landed, it deployed its solar panels and got down to the business of recording its surroundings. Phoenix’s study of the northern Martian polar region will last about three months. Its robotic digging arm will collect soil samples that will help researchers determine whether Phoenix’s surroundings once been habitable.

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