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16-May-08 | On course for Mars

Phoenix is nearing the end of its cruise phase, and will arrive at Mars on Sunday, 25 May. Using a heat shield, parachute, and deceleration thrusters, the EDL (entry, descent, and landing) phase will last about seven minutes and is expected to conclude with a gentle touchdown upon spidery landing gear around 23:53 UTC, Earth received time.

Many museums and planetaria around the United States will host landing parties, allowing visitors to watch live video of mission controllers staring nervously at computer screens, while scientists stand by ready to discuss the mission and answer questions. If landing is successful, Phoenix will then begin a three-month surface operations phase, during which it will explore for water ice in the soil of the Martian north pole. Phoenix was launched aboard Delta 325 on 4 August 2007.


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