7 Minutes of Danger in Mars Quest
Probe makes risky landing Sunday in hunt for water
By Peter Fearon,  Newser Staff
Posted May 23, 2008 2:52 AM CDT
JoJo Aguilar, a Mars exploration team member, dusts a full-scale model of the Phoenix lander at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.    (AP Photo/Ric Francis)
camera-icon View 2 more images

(Newser) – The latest NASA mission searching for signs of life on Mars comes to a heart-pounding climax Sunday as the Phoenix Lander attempts to touch down at the red planet's pole in a hunt for water. The lander must perform complex maneuvers in which the whole mission is at risk for a full 7 minutes, reports the Christian Science Monitor.

Once the lander—a 900-pound jam-packed chemistry lab—has safely touched down, it will excavate 20 inches beneath the surface searching for ice that may reveal whether Mars could have once supported life. “The polar regions are where we can understand recent processes, recent climate change and potential habitability,” said the mission’s lead investigator.