PASADENA, California (Reuters) - A new chapter in Mars exploration opens on Sunday when a small robotic probe jets down to the planet's arctic circle to learn if ice beneath its surface ever had the right chemistry to support life, mission managers said on Thursday.
NASA approved the mission, known as Phoenix, after the Mars orbiter Odyssey found ice surrounding the polar caps in 2002. 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.
"We're going way to the north," said Peter Smith, a planetary geologist at the University of Arizona in Tucson who heads the Phoenix science team.
Good luck to the team running Phoenix.