NASA is getting its first close views of the north pole of Mars. The half-billion-dollar Phoenix Mars Lander touched down on the planet Sunday night to begin at least three months of experiments.
The first detailed color pictures from the Phoenix lander arrived on Earth Monday. Guy Raz talks to NPR's Joe Palca at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena about what scientists say they are seeing.
Among the revelations: a telescopic image of Phoenix hanging from its parachute as it drops toward the red planet's surface. The image from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter represents the first time a Mars landing has been captured by another spacecraft.
Later today, scientists are expected to complete a full color panorama of the landing site of the Mars Phoenix mission.
Phoenix spent its first full day in the Martian arctic plains checking its instruments in preparation for an ambitious digging mission to study whether the site could have once been habitable.
Sol 1, as the days are known on Mars, was a busy time for the three-legged lander, which set down Sunday in relatively flat terrain cut by polygon-shaped fissures. The geometric cracks are likely caused by the repeated freezing and thawing of buried ice.
"We've only looked at one tiny little slit" of the landing site, principal investigator Peter Smith of the University of Arizona, Tucson said Monday.
Phoenix planned to take more views of its surroundings to help scientists zero in on a digging site and also take images of its onboard instruments, including its trench-digging robotic arm.
From NPR reports and The Associated Press.