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Ice-sampling probe set for Sunday landing on Mars

NASA new mission to study ice beneath Mar's surface

22 May 2008

NASA is sending a small robotic probe jets down to Mar's Arctic Circle to learn that ice beneath its surface ever had the right chemistry to support life. NASA has approved the mission known as Phoenix. Earlier in 2002,Mars orbiter Odyssey had found ice surrounding the polar caps. Till now five probes landed near Mars' equatorial zones, including the rovers Spirit and Opportunity, which discovered signs of past surface water. Odyssey found no sign of buried ice around Mars' equator.

The Phoenis team led by Peter Smith, a planetary geologist at the University of Arizona in Tucson is searching of any presence of life in Mars. On Earth, the arctic regions hold the history of the planet's climate changes, which are locked layer by layer into the ice core.According to Smith the history of life is preserved in its purest form -- organic molecules and cellular bacterial microbes and so forth in this layer. The mission is expected to explore the any hits of life in Mars.

Phoenix is not going to search for life directly, but it should be able to determine if the Martian ice was ever liquid. Liquid water is believed to be an essential ingredient for life to exist.

Among Phoenix's science instruments are small ovens to vaporize and chemically analyze the Martian ice, revealing, some of the processes the molecules underwent before reaching their present condition. Other sensors will study minerals in the soil and ice and image the shape and structure of individual grains in the soil. The U.S. space agency faces a formidable obstacle before its new round of Mars studies can begin. Phoenix has to land in a process that requires it to slow itself from 12,000 mph (19,000 kph) to zero in seven minutes.





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