NASA Mars Lander Image 1

The Aviation & Space overachiever of the year is, without a doubt, the Mars Phoenix Lander, which carried the most advanced equipment ever sent to a planet all the way to Mars and then discovered water ice, snow, and limestone-like compounds in the snow—all of which suggest that Mars just may have once been home to living organisms.

NASA Mars Lander Image 2

The big discovery: water ice, just inches below the surface of the Martian arctic plane. Phoenix found the ice by scooping away the soil and “watching” it vaporize over the course of a few days.

NASA Mars Lander Image 3

A panoramic view of Phoenix’s surroundings.

NASA Mars Lander Image 4

A rendering of Phoenix at the Martian sunset. Soon, winter will set on Mars’s arctic plain. Phoenix will power down due to lack of sunlight and become covered in carbon-dioxide ice. The mission will then be over—unless the lander somehow survives the Martian winter. If it does, the lander’s “Lazarus mode” will bring it back to life next spring.