On Nov. 2, 2008, the Phoenix Mars Lander stopped phoning home. Sitting in the Martian Arctic, suffering a slow death due to sunlight deprivation (the sun was dropping low on the Red Planet's horizon, reducing the amount of energy its solar panels could collect), the mission was officially dead.
However, now that the Martian northern hemisphere is entering summer, some scientists are excited about the possibility of thawing Phoenix. If this is possible, perhaps the Phoenix could live up to its name and rise from the ashes (or, in this case, ice).
But is that a possibility? Not really. But there's hope! And where Mars missions are concerned, there's usually a surprise in store. (Although you won't find me placing a bet on these odds.)
"We start listening in January for signals from our lander," said Peter Smith, Phoenix principal investigator at the Lunar and Planetary Lab at the University of Arizona in Tucson. "Our engineering team is quite curious to see how resilient the electronic systems are to the extreme cold of northern winter."