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This artist's animation shows how NASA's three-legged Phoenix Mars Lander is able to get a better look at its footing and the physical characteristics of the underlying soil on the surface of the Red Planet. Because the Surface Stereo Imager is able to swivel in any compass direction as well as up and down, it can "see" and take snapshots of the footpad beneath the camera's location near one edge of the spacecraft deck.
Each footpad is about the size of a large dinner plate, measuring 11.5 inches from rim to rim. The base of the footpad is shaped like the bottom of a shallow bowl to provide stability.
The footpad image was taken by the spacecraft's Surface Stereo Imager at 17:07 local Mars time, shortly after landing May 25, 2008.
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.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/Texas A&M