The month of Mars
Last night NASA successfully landed the Phoenix Mars Lander in the northern plains of Mars, where it will investigate whether the site could once have supported microbial life. This is a feat on its own, but Wil Wheaton just tipped me off (via Twitter) to the latest blog entry from Phil "The Bad Astronomer" Plait where he shows us another great feat. Not only have NASA landed on Mars again (The current odds for a successful landing is about 50%) but they’ve actually managed to photograph the Phoenix parachuting to the ground using the HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. This is so awesome I don’t know what else to say.
I uploaded a better and high resolution photo of the descent. You truly get a sense of the scale in this new photo. Although it looks like Phoenix is heading down that crater (10-km-wide crater "Heimdall") it really is 20km in front of it.
I uploaded a photo of the Phoenix in it’s permanent landed position. Although not as awesome as the descending photo, it is still pretty mind-boggling to see the probe sitting on the ground like that, with the heat shield and parachute some distance away from it.