“Once landed with solar panels open, I measure 7.2 ft. tall and 18 ft. wide”

Phoenix is a robotic Mars lander spacecraft. It was developed by a partnership of NASA, the Canadian Space Agency, several European countries, and the aerospace industry. Phoenix launched last year and is now getting very close to Mars, where it will try to chart the history of water on the planet and identify environments where microbial bits of life could exist.

It’s scheduled to land on Mars a week from today. That alone would be exciting enough. But I’ve been whipped into a frenzy by the fact that in the last few weeks scientists on the programme have been Twittering as if they were the Phoenix robot. About two hours ago Phoenix fired its engines for three seconds to make a landing trajectory adjustment. Now that is cool.

NASA’s Phoenix Mars lander illuminates Launch Pad 17A as it lifts off aboard a Delta II 7925 rocket at 5:26 a.m. EDT 04-Aug-2007 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Phoenix will land in icy soils near the north polar, permanent ice cap of Mars and explore the history of the water in these soils and any associated rocks, while monitoring polar climate. Landing on Mars is planned in May 2008 on arctic ground where a mission currently in orbit, Mars Odyssey, has detected high concentrations of ice just beneath the top layer of soil. Photo credit: NASA/Tony Gray and Robert Murray