homeaboutessential guidepicture of the daythunderblogsnewsmultimediapredictionsproductsget involvedcontact

picture of the day             archive             subject index          

An early image of Mars from the Phoenix lander. Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona
(The white object in the distance is the lander parachute.)

May 28, 2008
The Phoenix Awakens

A new robotic platform is now on the surface of Mars searching for signs of life in the northern latitudes. Will it find what it seeks?

“Once more into the breach, dear friends, once more!”
William Shakespeare – King Henry V, Act 3. Scene 1

In a bold move that harkens back to the 1970s, NASA has soft-landed a science station on Mars using retrorocket descent engines. The last successful mission making use of such technology was the Viking lander/orbiter combination that placed two spacecraft on the surface of Mars in 1975.

On May 25, 2008, 7:53 PM Eastern Daylight Time, radio signals confirmed that Phoenix was on the ground at 68 degree N latitude, 233 degrees E longitude. On Earth, the coordinates would correspond to the Northwest Territories in Canada, close to the Arctic Ocean.

Launched in August of 2007, the Phoenix mission is so named because it was rebuilt from the Mars Surveyor 2001 lander. Since the Phoenix is a mythical bird that rises from the pyre of its own death, the new name seemed appropriate. Mars Surveyor 2001 was placed in storage after the Mars Polar Lander failed to return data in 1999. No one is sure what happened to the Polar Lander, but it is assumed that it disintegrated during the landing sequence or upon impact. NASA officials decided to mothball the Surveyor package while they conducted an operational review of their organization and methods.

The Phoenix is designed to sample the Martian soil and determine if there is water ice just below the rocks and dust in the northern latitudes. According to most conventional opinions about Mars, it was once a “warm, wet world” although that was “millions of years ago.” Due to some kind of geological change (or another unknown agency), Mars became the scorched and disfigured planet that we see today. However, planetary scientists have not given up hope that water might remain in the polar regions, frozen in situ for all those millions of years.

Phoenix will dig down into the soil and then transfer the material to an onboard oven where it will bake the sample and drive out any volatile compounds. A spectrographic analyzer will then see if there are any biochemical components that could indicate the presence of life.

First and foremost will be the attempt at confirming Mars Odyssey’s discovery that ice might be present in the colder regions near the north pole. “Discovery” may be stretching the point, however. What Odyssey actually detected was the signature of hydrogen in the form of neutrons and gamma rays released by cosmic rays. It is an assumption that the hydrogen is in water molecules beneath the surface. The hydrogen may have been "implanted" electrically or molecules other than water were transferred from another celestial body.

According to the Electric Universe analysis of recent solar system history, the search for water, especially in the north, could be a forlorn hope. Forces that are not easy to comprehend have shaped Mars. The higher latitudes (except for the polar icecap) are several kilometers below the elevation of the southern hemisphere. As we have discussed in previous Picture of the Day articles, the reason for the discrepancy is Electric Discharge Machining (EDM) on a massive scale.

Mars has been the scene of planet-wide cataclysmic destruction. The Hellas Basin in the south is nine kilometers deep and 2100 kilometers wide. It is surrounded by a ring of uplifted terrain, similar to ringed structures on the other planets and moons. The ring is two kilometers high and extends 4000 kilometers from the center of the crater. One puzzling aspect to the giant scar is that the debris one would expect to have been blasted out of it is missing. Where did it go? Into space.

In the north are smooth, dusty plains that extend as far as the eye can see. No mountains, no hills – nothing to break the monotonous landscape except a few craters and the Tharsis Montes chain of “volcanoes” that rise up near the edge of the vast polar desert.

It is probable that the event or events responsible for the extant Martian topography scoured all organic compounds from the planet, vaporized any water that might have existed there and permanently sterilized the environment with a highly energetic plasma beam. In that case, water is most likely not present in any abundance.

By Stephen Smith

Please visit our Forum

The Electric Sky and The Electric Universe available now!


Authors David Talbott and Wallace Thornhill introduce the reader to an age of planetary instability and earthshaking electrical events in ancient times. If their hypothesis is correct, it could not fail to alter many paths of scientific investigation.

More info

Professor of engineering Donald Scott systematically unravels the myths of the "Big Bang" cosmology, and he does so without resorting to black holes, dark matter, dark energy, neutron stars, magnetic "reconnection", or any other fictions needed to prop up a failed theory.

More info


In language designed for scientists and non-scientists alike, authors Wallace Thornhill and David Talbott show that even the greatest surprises of the space age are predictable patterns in an electric universe.

More info

  EXECUTIVE EDITORS: David Talbott, Wallace Thornhill
Steve Smith, Mel Acheson
  CONTRIBUTING EDITORS: Michael Armstrong, Dwardu Cardona,
Ev Cochrane, C.J. Ransom, Don Scott, Rens van der Sluijs, Ian Tresman
  WEBMASTER: Brian Talbott

Copyright 2008:

home  •  thunderblogs  •   forum  •  picture of the day  •   resources  •  team  •  updates  •  contact us