Defying the nettlesome Galactic Ghoul, NASA successfully set down its Phoenix spacecraft on the Martian surface on Sunday. The lander, which will search for evidence of life, touched down near the planet’s north pole at 4:38 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time.
Just before 7 p.m., controllers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena burst into applause as the first pictures from the lander were relayed from the surface via the Mars Odyssey orbiter. The images showed the Martian horizon, deployed solar arrays, and a landing pad. Early telemetry indicates that the spacecraft landed on a flat surface and is in good shape. The spacecraft’s robotic arm, which will scoop up soil for analysis, appears to be deployed properly.
This marks the sixth successful landing on Mars in seven attempts for the American space agency, raising NASA’s on-Mars percentage to 85.7.