In May 2008, a robotic Spacecraft called Phoenix descended on Mars, as part of the Mars Scout Program. Its role was to find environments suited for Martian microbial life and to research water history on the planetâ€™s surface.
Several universities from Canada, the United States, Switzerland, Germany, Denmark, the United Kingdom joined NASA and other space companies in a common program under the direction of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of NASA and headed by the University of Arizonaâ€™s Lunarand Planetary Laboratory. This was the first NASA mission to Mars under the lead of a public university. The mission was led from Tucson where the campus of the University of Arizona was situated. The project management was conducted from Pasadena, California, by Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the project management was developed in Denver, Colorado, by Lockheed Martin.
Phoenix is the most recent successful Martian landing and out of seven attempts made, this is the sixth successful one. It is also the first landing successfully done in the polar region of the Mars planet. The mission was completed in August 2008. Because during the Martian winter the solar power was blocked from reaching the landerâ€™s solar panels, the lander lost energy and its last communication with Earth was in November 2008. After several attempts to regain contact with the lander that ended with no success, Phoenix was declared dead by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Because the mission reached and exceeded its planned length and important information was gathered, the mission was declared successful, despite the loss of the lander.
One of the missionâ€™s goals was to research water history in the geological structure of the planet, in order to explain the past climate change. The other goal was to study the ice-soil boundary for the planetâ€™s potential to be inhabited. Phoenix was the first lander to offer information from both poles of the planet.