NASA's Mars Phoenix Lander parachuting down to Mars. This image from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. marks the first time that a spacecraft has captured the final descent of another spacecraft onto a planetary body. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Uni
May 26, 2008 NASA has announced the successful touchdown of the Phoenix spacecraft on arctic plains in the north of the Red Planet. The completion of the 10 month journey was confirmed with the detection of a radio signal from Phoenix (a signal which takes more than 15 minutes to reach Earth) indicating that it had reached the Martian surface. The spacecraft reached speeds of approximately 12,000 mph before entering the top of the planet's atmosphere and beginning its decent towards a soft touchdown on its three-legs made possible by parachute deployment and finally, the use of controlled thrusters. Launched on August 4, 2007, Phoenix is the sixth lander to touch down on Mars with only five of the 11 previous international attempts having succeeded including the first successful landing of the Viking program in 1976.