back to article Phoenix beams back Martian postcards

NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander has beamed back its first snaps of the Martian Arctic's Vastitas Borealis region, having successfully landed at around 23:40 GMT yesterday: Phoenix snap of the Martian surface. Pic: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona The spacecraft is apparently in "great shape" and lying at at 68° north, 234° …


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  1. Slaine

    a bit "geometric" for random

    did the mason's come from mars?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Great news!

    But how come costs only 500 million to go to Mars, yet the cost of going to Iraq (which, I have been told, is a lot closer), is 500 billion (and counting)?

  3. John Cherry

    I'm surprised

    When I saw the animation of the touchdown a couple of days ago, my first thought was 'no way -- it's gonna crash'.

    Apparently rocket science is even cleverer than I thought.

  4. Ron Eve


    I dunno. Looks a lot like my mate's driveway in Croydon. I reckon it's a fake and no-ones going to find out because no-ones going to Croydon.

  5. Joe Cooper


    It took about 500 billion to put 12 geologists on the moon.

    Try sending 200,000 people to Mars and supporting them for five years while fighting Martians and see how the cost goes up.

  6. Danny Thompson
    Paris Hilton

    Definitely fake

    That picture looks like an old woman's belly button (as one would imagine, of course).

    Paris, 'cos she wishes someone would land on her these days.

  7. peter


    Couldn't they have it drop something like a coke can or pack of Marlboro lights, I have no sense of the scale.

    I have this image of the robot dumping all the trash from the trip before starting work.

    Also, it's obviously fake the shadows are wrong, no stars, footprint in bottom right corner, prop numbers stenciled onto rocks, no dust for first picture after landing,....

  8. Pete

    This is the view from

    AmanFromMars' verandah!

  9. Slaine
    Black Helicopters

    Fake ???

    How could you suggest such a thing. Don't you trust and love our beloved leaders? We have special places for trouble makers you know.

  10. P.Nutt

    Some Martian is going to be pissed

    Waking up to find some aliens have dumped a huge metal object and stared to dig a trench right bang in the middle of the Martina equivalent Japanese rock garden.How would you feel if next door decided to rip up your flower bed you sure as hell would want to kick his ass so lets to be to shocked when an invasion fleet decided to come and blow us up for dumping our crap on them.

    Mine is the one with the Acme rocket in the pocket - If it was good enough for Marvin and the Coyote it might just save earth.

  11. Torben Mogensen

    234° east?

    Aren't longitudes normally less than or equal to 180°? I would have written 234° east as 126° west instead.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward



    Polygonal terrain is common in the tundra of Earth. It's caused by the freezing and thawing of water in the soil. As waterlogged soil frrezes, it expands and pushes coarse material upwards and outwards. Gradually, the middle of each polygon becomes dominated by fine grained icy soil while the borders of the polygon become piles of pebbles and grit. They look spookily like dry stone walling for lemmings, but we know they're natural and the process has been modelled by (here comes the IT angle) computers.

    Seeing them around Phoenix isn't a complete surprise as polygons have been observed from Martian orbit before, here you go:

  13. DZ-Jay

    Re: Scale

    There was a coke can in the picture, but they Photoshopped it out, because it gave the whole thing away.


  14. Ian Ferguson
    Thumb Down


    no shark, bridge or helicopter.

  15. Andre
    Black Helicopters

    Seashell-like structure?


    Take a look, extreme left about 1/2 way down. Is it just me or does this look a bit like a seashell on its side?

    I asked SWMBO and she agrees with me on this one.


  16. nick hilliard
    Paris Hilton

    7.7 feet?

    7.7 feet? Come off it, you metrically impared individual. All NASA work is done in meters, and a 7.7ft robotic arm is actually a 2.502 meter appendage. Let's call it 2.5 meters. So there. Please update your article to use proper measurements. Oh, and avoid your luddite imperial system in future. kthxbai.

    Paris, because only a dumb blonde would make such a silly mistake.


  17. ImaGnuber

    RE: 7.7 feet?

    The country that retained feet, miles, etc. is the one that has had the most successful space program.

    Mines the one 157 millimetres to the left.

  18. amanfromMars Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Dumb Blonde or just a Lost SMARTer Soul Adrift in a Dank and Dismal Pond?

    "7.7 feet? Come off it, you metrically impared individual." .... By nick hilliard Posted Monday 26th May 2008 11:43 GMT


    There is probably some Magic Significance in 7.7.... for as you rightly point out, it could quite easily have been something else.

    "Paris, because only a dumb blonde would make such a silly mistake." Hmmm, does that make them easily lead?

  19. Anonymous John

    Re Seashell-like structure?

    I for one, welcome our new acquatic Martian overlords.

  20. Anonymous Coward

    Re: 234° east?

    @ Torben:

    On planets other than Earth, all longitudes are normally given as longitudes east. It's simpler. Allegedly.

  21. Dennis SMith

    MIssion to Mars

    Tanya Cumpston wrote:

    But how come costs only 500 million to go to Mars, yet the cost of going to Iraq (which, I have been told, is a lot closer), is 500 billion (and counting)?

    We didn't have a moron running the mission to Mars like we have in "mission from God" in Iraq. Then again there aren't a bunch Muslim terrorists shooting at it or trying to blow up the Phoenix lander either. Also, NASA actually had a plan in place for what to do when they got to Mars.

  22. Frank


    "...lying at at 68° north, 234° east on a flat valley ..."

    I hope that it is in fact standing :)

  23. Anonymous Coward

    man in the picture?

    Say what you want but I see two martians in the photo. There are about the size of cockrocaches. Right side. About half way down. In about a quarter.

    Just had to go look again didn't you?

    Mine is the one with the eight ball on the back.

  24. Eric Werme

    Re: a bit "geometric" for random

    It's not completely random.

    I wasn't able to find a good picture in a brief web search, but I've seen photos of remarkably regular "patterned ground" from permafrost regions.

    Some of these may be useful to people unfamiliar with the phenomenon, if you find some good links to good photos, please post them.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Not scuppered

    Expecting to find water so soon already? No wonder it's soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo exciting running away from Earth. I can barely contain myself.

    Paris - not a scupper either.

  26. David Shepherd

    Re: 7.7 feet

    But remember, one of the previous Mars probes was lost because of confusion between feet and metres so its entry sequences got triggered at completely the wrong altitude.

  27. Anonymous Coward

    @I'm surprised

    Me too, and for just the same reason, that animation reminded me of the old "flying bedstead" design from the '50s, and I thought it would be just as unstable. I thought "when that flat thing smashing through the atmosphere at high speed starts to fire rockets, it's going to skip and jump like a bucking bronco and probably end up flipping upside-down".

    Guess it goes to show we've learnt a lot about real-time computer control of dynamically instable flight systems since then. Maybe NASA kind-of exaggerated the bounciness factor in that animation a bit, to make it look more exciting and dangerous than it actually was?

    Either way, I'm well impressed. We're on another planet! Go, Team Earthbound-Biped-Primates!

  28. eddiewrenn

    Anyone watch Arrested Development?

    Those are balls!

  29. Dalen

    @Nick Hillard

    Scrap feet, scrap meters... El Reg Grapefruits is the way to go.

  30. Andrew Chesters


    @Joe Cooper

    "It took about 500 billion to put 12 geologists on the moon."

    Err, only one of them was a geologist, and even then what they really needed was a Selenologist (but they hadn't been invented back then).

  31. Joseph Helenihi

    @ Joe Cooper

    "Try sending 200,000 people to Mars and supporting them for five years while fighting Martians and see how the cost goes up."

    So, the troops would be armed with some sort of anti-bacterial spray?

  32. Anonymous John

    Fascinating picture here

    The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured it on the way down.

  33. Raving

    @ Cherry

    And the picture of the Phoenix Lander, landing is even cleverer, still.

  34. Hunde Kotze
    Paris Hilton

    2 metre arm

    Since the robotic arm is Canada's contribution to the effort (as is the case with the Shuttle programme), you can be sure that it was engineered in proper units.

    Paris, because she was not fooled by this length boast.

  35. Anonymous Coward

    @ John Cherry

    Not terribly surprising: it's pretty much how the Viking landers did it thirty years ago, the only real difference being that Phoenix has gone straight in for a landing rather than doing some orbital sightseeing first.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Why is it that my $200 digital camera has higher resolution and better quality than any of these images?

  37. Kanhef


    Naturally-formed polygons aren't that unusual. A foam of soap bubbles in your sink, for example. Many are polyhedra, with flat sides, straight edges, and sharp corners.

    Re 234º east: on Earth, yes. But there's less risk of confusion or error if you always measure eastward from an (arbitrary) prime meridian.

  38. Anonymous Coward

    Seashell-like structure

    Take a look, extreme left about 1/2 way down. Is it just me or does this look a bit like a seashell on its side?

    I asked SWMBO and she agrees with me on this one.

    Well, that settles it then.

  39. Webster Phreaky
    Jobs Horns

    Idiots Art Bell and George SNoory ALREADY Fabricating Martian Road Story!

    One of their Liars Club freaks with a new books to sell is already planned for the show to tell all the late night morons that the "geometric" shape in the picture is an ancient bit of Martian road or canal!

  40. Anonymous Coward

    Re: Seashell-like structure

    Isn't the reason for the sea shell simply that the picture, taken by a camera with a red filter on its lens, is just of the "beach" at Weston-Super-Mare when the tide is out?

  41. Jon Tocker

    Disappointed with NASA

    If they're going to program their landers to send back holiday snaps they could have at least got it to digitally stamp "Weather is great, wish you were here" or (better) "Scenery is here, wish you were beautiful" on the bottom of the pic.

    They've really let the side down.

  42. Anonymous Coward


    I guess you should know about this. Can't you ring up some relatives back home and get the skinny?

  43. Matt Martin

    RE: 7.7 feet?

    "The country that retained feet, miles, etc. is the one that has had the most successful space program."

    Because when NASA use imperial measurements thing go so well......

  44. Anonymous Coward

    Where's the Kaboom?

    There was supposed to be an Earth-shattering Kaboom!

  45. Anonymous Coward

    Correct arm length

    Actually in the correct measurement the robotic arm is 11.6 red squirrels.

    Measured of course from the nose, to the end of the tail (equivalent to 10.8 of the slightly larger grey squirrel)

  46. Astarte

    Red Squirrels - ISO

    The ISO (International Squirrel Organisation) specifies the Standard Dimensions of red and grey squirrels but there is some discussion about the gravity effect which, it is believed, may have resulted in a slightly larger or taller creature.

    Nevertheless it has been confirmed that grey squirrels originated on the moon and the red squirrels on Mars – camouflage is effective hence the difficulty in spotting them. The alleged existence of little green squirrels has not been fully debated.

    I wonder what sort of fiasco will result when they discover oil on Mars.

  47. amanfromMars Silver badge

    Last Tango in Paris ...... dDeeper Space XXXXPloration Primer

    ""The country that retained feet, miles, etc. is the one that has had the most successful space program."

    Because when NASA use imperial measurements thing go so well......" .... By Matt Martin Posted Tuesday 27th May 2008 01:39 GMT


    One trusts in Global Operating Devices, that for any possible Chance and all possible Chances of Sustainable Imperial Success in Alien Space Missions, that ITs Leadership Team members are Naturally Up for the Task and not Junked out on the Blue Pill of Distressed Chemical and MetaDataMining Dependency...... for if they have no Viable IP Growth Strategy for Future Source/Deep Select Space Flight Population for AIReal Simulations, the Phoenix will fade to Black and Default to Red Control. Indeed, and I would not want to be too alarmist about the matter, it may very well be so already Proxy Defaulted/Kernel Embedded and just awaits Third Party HyperRadioProActivity to Energise Limitless Imaginative Source Potential.

    When one considers the earlier crash/failure report, one may see a disturbingly familiar picture to the one painted in this short extract from its findings ...."The failure board's first report identifies eight contributing factors that led directly or indirectly to the loss of the spacecraft. These contributing causes include inadequate consideration of the entire mission and its post-launch operation as a total system, inconsistent communications and training within the project, and lack of complete end-to-end verification of navigation software and related computer models. "

    But if they have a handle on How to Steer Imagination in the Right Direction and towards the Light of Deeper Understandings, then they will have no Problems.

    And having landed on Mars and finding IT Convivial ...... whatever Next to do? Create a New World Environment on Earth as AI ControlLED Virgin Space Simulator Program for Budding Colonists? Do that too well and you will Create Red Hot Zones/Martian Times on Earth and a Simple Virtual TelePortation Facility in Faculty. ...... although that may be more of a Fit for House of the Rising Sun Eastern Space Science Technologies/Methodologies to showcase their Microprocessor/SemiConductor XXXXPerTease.

    Tread carefully on Foreign Soils, for Aliens have no Default Rights and are only Welcome Guests when bearing no Ills and Providing New Technology.

  48. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    $200 digital camera

    The Register chose/scaled an image to match their site. The Surface Stereo Imager has a resolution of 1024x1024 and can detect 12 different wavelengths.

    1024x1024 seems to be a popular resolution on interplanetary probes. I assume they have a CCD element that they know can survive being shaken up during launch, six month's radiation dose in space followed by re-entry into a corrosive abrasive atmosphere. If they want a higher resolution, they can make a mosaic - the rocks will not leap about that much between shots.

    Try drop testing a $200 digital camera. Martian dust is particularly intrusive and abrasive. Bury your camera in a sandy beach, then try to take photographs at twelve different wavelengths.

  49. Dick Kennedy

    They're finding more than they expected

    NASA finds Bible on Mars!!

  50. Aitor

    Camera & more

    The camera is low resolution.. but it works from -50ºC to +75ºC.... try that with your (or my) camera...

    As for comparison to the viking projects.. this is viking on asteroids.. same idea, better tech.

    By the way, space machines are almost always made from outdated technology.. my boss has designed quite some space things things (and these went to space).. and they always used outdated technology that worked for sure and was totally tested. You can't send to space a system that may crash...

  51. Anonymous Coward

    @ Aitor

    The times, they are a-changing: the Mars Science Laboratory's "skycrane" landing system relies on a mishmash of technologies that has never been tried before to target, slow, land and disconnect the biggest, heaviest rover ever.

    I already have a bet on this not working.

  52. alistair millington
    Paris Hilton

    I heard

    NASA used metric because of previous mistakes and because the world doesn't use imperial. So they need to talk to so many others space agencies and institutes that it was easier and less hassle to talk in their language.

    Which was a nice surprise given it is america who think we should all think their way.

    But given it is probably from an American NASA report for americans I guess 7.7 is more fitting.

    @Dick Kennedy.

    Don't, Americans will believe you... :)

    Paris because she probably will think they found a bible.

  53. Elmer Phud
    Black Helicopters

    Measurements and missing persons.

    Did we not have a load of news/fluff about the impending invasion of Ingerland by black squirrels? They are apparently coming over from mainland Europe as the real ISO standard for tree rats - being European they are properly metric. Rumour has it that they are really Eastern European cats with loads of hair gel on their tails to get them past immigration.

    No news yet as to whether the standard is to be drawn from shot or squashed squirrels as the dimensions differ a bit.

    But this is just a mere distraction to the real purpose of the mission -- where's Marvin? Isn't he the real threat to us all? We know he's been planning on getting rid of Earth for ages.

  54. Chris Hawkins


    General Rgrmrmy The Lesser, KGM12 , (Knight Garter of Majestic 12) recently appointed Joint Chief of Staff of the Mars Armed Forces, telepathically empathically denied the reported landing in the polar regions an alien spaceprobe from Earth during the past 24 hours.

    Recalling the famous alleged supposed incident at the Ares Vallis Air Force Base many years ago, no proof was ever found any such landing.

    The General continued, that over the past decade, substantial advances have been made in planetary defence and in the event of any alien craft attempting such a landing, there would be a Mars-shattering Kaboom that would be telepathically audible and visible to all!

    As there was no such Kaboom there was no threat!

    In a separate development, ACME Labs announced today the retirement of long time military advisor to the Kaboom programme, Col. (Retd.) Marvin T. At the age of 1000, it was common knowledge at ACME, that Col. Marvin was increasingly showing disturbing signs of overwork and old age, apparently wandering the corridors of the the labs muttering verbally, "There are Bugs in it!" and "Where's the Kaboom? There was supposed to be an Earth-shattering Kaboom!"

  55. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Actually, come to think of it shouldn't NASA be using "Martian" standard measurements???'

    Excuse me while I get my Roman Helmet and Pu-36 explosive space modulator.

  56. Barrie Shepherd

    Martian Picture - now removed

    I am sure that in one of the first pictures, now removed from the www site, I saw a few bits of debris that looked as though it came from an American Airlines plane - just enough detail to see the characteristic " A " letter. But then maybe I have been watching too much YouTube.

  57. SpitefulGOD
    Gates Halo

    $200 digital camera

    Also isn't the datarate something shit like 32kbps, who wants to download some 10Gp picture with that?

  58. ImaGnuber


    Metric is for people who need to use their fingers and toes to count (assuming they have all of their fingers and toes). Quarts, ounces etc. are fine for the rest of us.

    I miss the old days.

    You'll notice that the NASA problems were supposedly caused by a confusion of the two systems - the result of trying to accommadate the finger/toe users.

  59. Jonathan Richards

    A sense of perspective

    Jeez, the human race does something as totally extraordinary as putting a functioning robot laboratory into the polar regions of another PLANET, and all we can do is whinge on about the MEASUREMENTS??!!!11!!

    Yep. So here goes. The real WTF is not that the robot arm length is quoted in feet, it's that it's quoted in decimal feet. 7.7 feet is 7' 8 13/32". Near enough.

    Mine's the one with the imperial micrometer in the breast pocket. Ta.

  60. Anonymous Coward

    Does anyone know if the Death Star was metric?

    Either one.

  61. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Canada just made the CanadArm

    So the Canucks could whack off in space.

  62. J-Wick


    No, eddie - it's a Vol*vo* :)

  63. Pyros

    Re; Meric Death Star

    Well, if you go by semantics, they use the Imperial unit of measurements. >)

    In the SW universe, it's now established that the Death Star is 1 Lunar in size (as defined by the basic area of a sphere.) Just keep in mind that it's roughly the same size as Yavin V, which in turn rotates around a gas giant also roughly the size of Jupiter, perhaps larger if my movie-watching eye is seeing it right.

    But let's not get into the geekery of Star Wars, we'll save it for the appropriate articles in the future.

    Mine's the one with the Pendant's Reference in the pocket.

  64. StopthePropaganda

    More w@nkers are aware of "American Idol"

    ...than are aware we even launched a probe to Mars. Even less can name the probe.

    We just LANDED on an ALIEN WORLD! And it's got a MICROSCOPE so we can beam back visual micro analysis. And it can look around in 3D!

    We've soft-landed only THREE devices in ALL of HUMAN HISTORY. But more of this misbegotten planet is concerned about who hit a ball the farthest this year, or how many times some guy can put an orange ball thru a netted hole while violating all the rules of the "game" he's selling shoes for than what is most likely another step in the very survival of the ENTIRE HUMAN RACE.

    At very least, one of three events that NO OTHER NATION has successfully accomplished EVER. Western Society, from the Greeks, to the Romans, to the British to the Americans, one practically unbroken line of cultural evolution that created Science as a means to expand understanding of everything, as opposed to religious dogma. A completely extraterrestrial body-not a satellite, not splash from an early collision while the planets formed-but a completely different world!

    More people will watch historically meaningless "Dancing with the Stars" or stoke up on jihadist hatred thru al-jazeera than will even click over to NASA or and that makes me very sad and disappointed in much of humanity.

  65. Kanhef

    re: Death Star

    Imperial. Obviously.

  66. Kanhef


    Not the third. Viking 1 & 2, Pathfinder, Opportunity, and Spirit all did pretty well, and that's just the Nasa probes on Mars. Your point still stands that this is really cool stuff.

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