Martian Sand Is Swallowing the Phoenix Lander and Nothing Beside Remains

At top, the Phoenix lander in 2008 and then mostly obscured in 2017. At bottom right, the back shell and parachute are visible in 2008 but not 2017. RIP. (Images: NASA)

The Phoenix Lander detected water on Mars during its three-month mission in 2008, and now it is being swallowed by the planet’s dust. The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter snapped the above two images, one in 2008 and the other in December of 2017.


If Percy Bysshe Shelley were alive today and reading the news, he might have instead written:

I met a satellite orbiting a distant land

Who said—“One back shell and parachute

Lie in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,

Half sunk a shattered rover lies, whose arm,

And solar panels, and chemical-tasting instruments

Tell NASA well that Martian water read

Which yet survives, dusting this lifeless thing,

The soil samples that mocked them, and the scientists that fed;

And on the pedestal, these words don’t appear:

My name is Phoenix, Bot of Bots;

Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare

The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

[via NASA]

Former Gizmodo physics writer and founder of Birdmodo, now a science communicator specializing in quantum computing and birds



“Calling crawler at Delta Ajax niner. Wormsign warning. Crawler at Delta Ajax niner. Wormsign warning. Acknowledge, please.”