NASA Spacecraft Set to Study Mars’ Icy North Pole

Preparations are on track for the launch of a new NASA Mars lander early next month to search for subsurface water and potential life in the red planet’s arctic northern region.

Gearing up of the space agency’s Phoenix Mars mission comes as another mission stands down due to weather concerns. The launch of Dawn, a mission to explore two rocky objects in the solar system’s Asteroid Belt, has been pushed back to no earlier than September, at an additional estimated cost of $20 to $25 million.

If Phoenix launches as planned on Aug. 3, it will reach Mars on May 25, 2008. Once it reaches its target, the spacecraft will barrel directly into the Martian atmosphere and attempt the first soft-landing on the red planet since the NASA’s Viking missions more than 30 years ago.

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