Nasa Phoenix Lander beams back pictures from Mars

Nasa's £212m Phoenix Mars Lander touched down in the northern polar region of the Red Planet yesterday following a 420 million mile journey lasting 10 months. The spacecraft beamed images of Mars' Vastitas Borealis region back to Earth this morning.

Back in 1973 David Bowie posed the question Is there life on Mars? and the Nasa mission hopes to find evidence of primitive life on the Red Planet. Accordingly, the Phoenix will collect ice and mineral samples from beneath the planet's surface which should shed light on whether or not it can sustain life. Previous Nasa explorations of Mars discovered that there is water on the planet in the form of vapour in the atmosphere and ice underground.

In the long term Nasa scientists are hoping to establish if life has ever existed on Mars as well as making a detailed study of the climate and geology ahead of a ground-breaking manned exploration to the Red Planet.

Life on Mars

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