Phoenix lander shutting down for good before Martian fall

The Phoenix lander's mission on Mars is coming to a close. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory is going to shut down the robotic explorer's survival heaters and essentially let the Phoenix "freeze to death." It's a sad end for the 'bot, but a noble one: Phoenix has been working hard on Mars for five months — two months longer than its handlers thought it would operate for. With Phoenix analyzing the Martian terrain, scientist have come as close as they can to holding the soil in their owns hands, save making the impossible journey to the Red Planet.

The handlers will shut down one heater at a time. That will let them continue to work for a few more weeks yet, conserving power as the lengthening darkness on Mars gives the lander less and less stored solar energy to perform tasks with. Phoenix has also jabbed a probe into the soil that'll continue transmitting data for weeks to come.

It's been an exciting and successful mission, and we no doubt still have interesting things to learn from the 'bot as scientists pour over the wealth of knowledge it has sent back.

Via New Scientist