Goodnight, Phoenix

NASA’s Pheonix lander, which touched down on Mars in late May, has stopped responding:

If you are reading this, then my mission is probably over.

This final entry is one that I asked be posted after my mission team announces they’ve lost contact with me. Today is that day and I must say good-bye, but I do it in triumph and not in grief.

In its five months it photographed water-ice on the surface of Mars, took pictures at close to atomic-level detail, and detected, three kilometres above, the first extra-terresterial snowfall. It was a cool little machine. It’s hoped Phoenix may live up to its namesake after the Martian winter, but it’s unlikely.

As I’ve said before, there’s no other place I’d rather be than here. My mission lasted five months instead of three, and I’m content knowing that I worked hard and accomplished great things during that time. My work here is done, but I leave behind a legacy of images and data.

In that sense, you haven’t heard the end of me. Scientists will be releasing findings based on my data for months, possibly years, to come and today’s children will read of my discoveries in their textbooks. Engineers will use my experience during landing and surface operations to aid in designing future robotic missions.

Well done, Phoenix. Someone’ll be along to dust you off, one day. And it shouldn’t be forgotten that 2004 rovers Spirit and Opportunity are still going.