NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander will be in free fall after it separates from its back shell and parachute, but not for long.

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NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander will be in free fall after it separates from its back shell and parachute, but not for long. Thrusters will begin firing half a second later and will increase their thrusts three seconds after Phoenix sets itself free from the parachute.

The spacecraft will have slowed to about 56 meters per second (125 miles per hour) by the time it separates from the parachute, about a kilometer (six-tenths of a mile) above the ground.

This illustration is part of the animation featured above.

The Phoenix Mission is led by the University of Arizona, Tucson, on behalf of NASA. Project management of the mission is by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. Spacecraft development is by Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver.

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