The successful landing of Phoenix on the northern polar region of Mars was a sensational event (which live coverage by the Science Channel managed to make dull; how could they do that?), being the first rocket-powered soft landing on Mars since 1976, when the Vikings landed. You’ve all seen pictures from the Mars surface, no doubt–but you might not have seen this picture, the first time any craft has ever been photographed landing on another world:
If you go to the full image at Astronomy Picture of the Day, you’ll see the magnificent crater near which Phoenix landed.
Phoenix is not just a national and international triumph; it’s a personal one, as well. I was reminded by the Planetary Society that my family and I are personally represented on Mars by this craft: it carries a DVD that bears our names, along with those of 250,000 other people who signed up for the mission. It also bears a library of science and science fiction works about Mars, to be recovered and enjoyed by future explorers. Here’s a picture, taken by Phoenix itself, of the DVD on Mars.
Now that’s a good feeling, knowing that a part of me is up there on Mars right now.