The Phoenix lander safely reached the Martian arctic surface yesterday. The descent was monitored by an unprecedented fleet of orbital spacecraft. The HiRISE instrument aboard MRO returned this amazing shot of the Phoenix lander descending on its parachute:
230202main_9227-PHX_Lander.jpg (JPEG Image, 420×446 pixels)
The lander seems to be properly powered, and sitting on level ground. The images returned during the night showed various parts of the lander, and the bleak surface of the polar region. There are no mountains or crater rims around this site. The surface is broken into polygonal shapes which resemble worn paving stones—said to be similar to terrestrial tundras exposed to countless freeze-thaw cycles.
The lander is expected to return some color panoramas, and start digging. Time is limited, because the Sun will drop below the horizon as the Martian winter sets in, removing the lander’s power source for the duration. The lander is expected to be entombed by solid carbon dioxide as the polar cap undergoes its seasonal expansion.