Mars Lander: Parachute Pic

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The big news from the Phoenix Mars Mission today: The UA's Lunar and Planetary Lab's HiRISE camera aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter managed to snap a photo of the Phoenix as it descended to the planet's surface. It's the first time one spacecraft has snapped a photo of another spacecraft landing on another planet.

Dr. Alfred McEwen, who heads up the HiRISE mission, was clearly thrilled by the photo, which was taken when the MRO was about 760 kilometers from the Phoenix.

"This one is really unique," says McEwen, who put it among his top 10 favorite photos from the HiRISE.

NASA has posted some nifty animated films, including "Phoenix Landing: Nerves and Joy," a recap of the landing you can find if you root around in the archives. For more photos and updates from the mission, visit the Phoenix Mission Web site.

Over the next few days, the Phoenix will continue taking photos while calibrating and testing the other instruments on board the lander, which touched down near the Martian north pole yesterday. The mission is scheduled to last 90 Martian days (which amounts to about 92 days as we earthlings measure time), but scientists say they will continue experiments until the sun dips too low to continue powering the robotic lab.

"We're gonna operate until Mars freezes over," said Barry Goldstein of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at this morning's press conference.

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