Phoenix Lander Still Visible in New HiRISE Images from Mars

Article written: 8 Feb , 2012
Updated: 24 Dec , 2015


I spy Phoenix! said the HiRISE camera on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter! This new image acquired on January 26, 2012 shows that the Phoenix lander and its backshell are still visible from Mars’ orbit. The parachute, seen in earlier images, is probably about 130 meters south of where this picture ends. This is one of a series of images to monitor frost patterns at the Phoenix landing site, said HiRISE Principal Investigator, Alfred McEwen, adding that this new images shows almost the same appearance of the hardware as 1 Mars years ago, in 2010. See larger versions of this image at the HiRISE website.

See below for comparison images from orbit from 2008, shortly after Phoenix landed and 2010, after the mission had ended.

Two images of the Phoenix Mars lander taken from Martian orbit in 2008 and 2010. The 2008 lander image shows two relatively blue spots on either side corresponding to the spacecraft's clean circular solar panels. In the 2010 image scientists see a dark shadow that could be the lander body and eastern solar panel, but no shadow from the western solar panel. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

In these images, also from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, signs of severe ice damage to the lander’s solar panels show up in the 2010 image, with one panel appearing to be completely gone. The Phoenix team says this is consistent with predictions of how Phoenix could be damaged by harsh winter conditions. It was anticipated that the weight of a carbon-dioxide ice buildup could bend or break the solar panels.

Source: HiRISE

Nancy Atkinson is currently Universe Today’s Contributing Editor. Previously she served as UT’s Senior Editor and lead writer, and has worked with Astronomy Cast and 365 Days of Astronomy. Nancy is the author of the new book “Incredible Stories from Space: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Missions Changing Our View of the Cosmos.” She is also a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

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6 Responses

  1. Anonymous says

    Nice… I still love that they can see Viking 1 & 2 as well (and they think they may have spotted the parachute for Viking 1)

  2. The missing solar panel is because some green-skinned bug-eyed martian inhabitant thought it would make a nice bathroom accoutrement.

  3. Diane Rhodes says

    Or it could have become the first “alien” spacecraft in the atmosphere of Mars, blown off in an epic wind storm. 🙂

  4. Diane Rhodes says

    RE: old spacecraft sightings — Have they found the Beagle or the Polar Lander yet? There must be debris of some sort on the surface.

    • Member
      Anonymous says

      The problem with that is that we don’t know exactly where to look… and finding pieces of debris in a large area will be incredibly difficult.

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