Phoenix's robotic arm
This photograph from June 2008, shows the Robotic Arm on NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander carrying a scoop of Martian soil bound for the spacecraft's microscope. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona
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NASA's Phoenix Mars Mission is being honored with a Breakthrough Award by Popular Mechanics magazine today in New York City. In its fourth year, the awards recognize innovators who improve lives and expand possibilities in science, technology, engineering and exploration.

Peter Smith of the University of Arizona, principal investigator for Phoenix, is accepting the award on behalf of the Phoenix team. Phoenix Project Manager Barry Goldstein of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and Ed Sedivy, the Phoenix program manager at Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver, were also recognized for their mission leadership.

Now in the final weeks of an extended mission, the Phoenix lander has been studying the Martian arctic for evidence of past liquid water, and habitability, and studying the current climate and atmosphere since landing on the Red Planet on May 25. Robotic laboratory instruments have "sniffed and tasted" the Martian soil and ice to analyze their chemical and mineral properties. More than 25,000 images from the surface of Mars have been returned by the lander's camera systems.

A complete report on the Breakthrough Awards, and a full list of the nine winners are available in the November 2008 issue of Popular Mechanics and online at .

The Phoenix mission is led by Smith, with project management at JPL and development partnership at Lockheed Martin. International contributions come from the Canadian Space Agency; the University of Neuchatel; the universities of Copenhagen and Aarhus, Denmark; Max Planck Institute, Germany; and the Finnish Meteorological Institute.