LIFE ON MARS: The Phoenix Has Landed

NEW YORK TIMES: “Follow the water” has been NASA’s mantra for its Mars exploration for more than a decade. Phoenix will be the first space probe to directly touch Martian water when its robotic arm digs down to the ice layer, expected a few inches beneath the surface, and scoops up some for examination. Phoenix reached its destination after a 422-million-mile journey that lasted almost 10 months. During the final, tense minutes of the descent, long stretches of quiet in the mission control room at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory were punctuated by cheers and clapping as confirmation of crucial events like the deployment of the parachute were confirmed. Then, at 7:53 p.m. Eastern time, Richard Kornfeld, the lead communications officer for entry, descent and landing, announced: “Touchdown signal detected.” The mission controllers, wearing identical blue polo shirts made for the occasion, erupted in cheers and began hugging one another in congratulations. 

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