Inside a thermal vacuum at Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, technicians prepared NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander for environmental testing

Inside a thermal vacuum at Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, technicians prepare NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander for environmental testing.

The Phoenix lander was encapsulated in its aeroshell -- which included both the back shell and heat shield -- as it was subjected to extreme cold and heat in a vacuum, space-like condition. The spacecraft undergoes extensive environmental testing to confirm Phoenix will perform in the extreme conditions it will experience during its trip from Earth to Mars, during its arrival and landing, and while it works on the surface of Mars.

The Phoenix mission is led by Principal Investigator Peter H. Smith of the University of Arizona, Tucson, with project management at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and development partnership with Lockheed Martin Space Systems. International contributions for Phoenix are provided by the Canadian Space Agency, the University of Neuchatel (Switzerland), the University of Copenhagen, and the Max Planck Institute in Germany. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

Photojournal Note: As planned, the Phoenix lander, which landed May 25, 2008 23:53 UTC, ended communications in November 2008, about six months after landing, when its solar panels ceased operating in the dark Martian winter.

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