NASA to extend Phoenix's Mars mission through September

Other News Materials 1 August 2008 00:52 (UTC +04:00)

The Phoenix Mars mission, which has spent the last two months examining the red planet for evidence that it could support life, will be extended through September, NASA scientists said Thursday, dpa reported.

Phoenix landed on Mars May 25 and its mission was to last three months. Instead the US space agency will spend another 2 million dollars for a few extra weeks of research, chief scientist Michael Meyer said in a press conference from Tucson, Arizona.

The spacecraft's robotic arm has dug several trenches in the Martian soil near the planet's north pole. It has found ice and minerals that are necessary for life and analyzed the soil in a series of small "ovens."

During the extension of the mission, scientists said, Phoenix will dig and examine two more trenches. The added time will also allow them to collect more data about the seasons on Mars and take more photographs of the planet.

Meyer described the mission as a step toward "understanding whether there are places on Mars that have been or even might still be habitable."