PASADENA, Calif., May 24 (UPI) — NASA announced Monday the official end of operations of its Phoenix Mars Lander after repeated attempts to contact the spacecraft failed.
Officials said a new image transmitted by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows signs of severe ice damage to the lander’s solar panels.
“The Phoenix spacecraft succeeded in its investigations and exceeded its planned lifetime,” said Fuk Li, manager of the Mars Exploration Program at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. “Although its work is finished, analysis of information from Phoenix’s science activities will continue for some time to come.”
NASA sent its Mars Odyssey orbiter over the Phoenix site 61 times last week in a final attempt to communicate with the lander. Not only was no transmission from the lander detected last week, but Phoenix also did not communicate during 150 over flights during three earlier listening campaigns this year.
During its mission, Phoenix confirmed and examined patches of the widespread deposits of underground water ice detected by Odyssey and identified the presence of calcium carbonate, suggesting the occasional presence of thawed water. The lander also found soil chemistry with significant implications for life and observed falling snow.
NASA said the mission’s biggest surprise was the discovery of perchlorate, an oxidizing chemical on Earth that is food for some microbes and potentially toxic for others.
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