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Caption: NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander was lowered into a thermal vacuum chamber at Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, in December 2006 in preparation for launch on a mission to the Red Planet. The spacecraft was folded in its aeroshell and underwent environmental testing that simulated the extreme conditions it will endure during the nine-and-a-half-month cruise to Mars. The Phoenix is scheduled to land on May 25, 2008, and is expected to conduct a three-month mission studying a northern arctic site on Mars. Phoenix will dig into an ice-rich layer expected to lie within arm's reach of the Martian surface and will analyze the water and soil for evidence about climate cycles and investigate whether the environment there has ever been favorable for microbial life.

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Keywords: exploration, mars, north pole, phoenix, phoenix mars lander, planet, planetary exploration, pole, research, spacecraft, water

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