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    U.S. Phoenix probe lands on Mars

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    NASA's Phoenix space probe successfully touched down on Mars as part of a 90-day mission examining whether the red planet's subterranean ice could have once sustained life.

    WASHINGTON, May 26 (RIA Novosti) - NASA's Phoenix space probe successfully touched down on Mars as part of a 90-day mission examining whether the red planet's subterranean ice could have once sustained life.

    The Phoenix probe, launched in August 2007, made a textbook landing on its 420 million mile journey from Earth before opening its solar arrays and sending images back to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

    Peter Smith, the Phoenix mission leader, from the University of Arizona was cited by NASA as describing the landing "Picture perfect" and said: "We'll start surface operations right away."

    The space probe will now study the planet's permafrost using a robotic arm to dig under the surface and analyze the samples searching for traces of the chemicals required for life.

    The spacecraft, built by the Lockheed Martin Corporation at a cost of $420 million, will also search for primitive microbes and observe the Martian weather and atmosphere from the planet's surface.

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