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'The Phoenix Has Landed, The Phoenix Has Landed!'

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Update: "The Phoenix has landed, the Phoenix has landed. Welcome to the northern plains of Mars!" exclaimed EDL Communications Lead Richard Kornfeld. Another woman standing there watching was wow-ed: "That touchdown was phenomenal." It feels like being a room full of lottery winners -- everyone cheered, hugged and then someone broke out candy Mars Bars. The room's silence is now abuzz with chatter, some reporters are high-fiving, and cameramen are surrounding NASA experts for comments.

Other local coverage from friends of LAist are here too. Dave Bullock from Wired and Sciencedude Gary Robbins from the OC Register.

The first images, if they come through, are expected to his NASA at 6:43 p.m. tonight.

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Original Post: There's excitement in the air today at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena. The Mars Phoenix Lander is about to hit Mars' atmosphere and soon will go into the "7 minutes of terror" where it will travel 13,000 miles per hour and hopefully land safely on the surface. The purpose of this mission is to look for habitability, but not necessarily life. "If we find life, that's great," explained Dr. Randii Wessen, a program system engineer who described himself to us as a "Space Weenie." Phoenix has seven instruments, two of which that are labs. One will test gasses and the other will study dirt after the Phoenix digs two feet underground (where lithotrophs could be, which would be a sign of life). Previous missions have landed at higher or normal elevation levels, but today, it is is landing in an area which is suspected to be where an ocean used to be in the northern hemisphere.

Here in the pressroom, it's silent except for the light strokes of keyboards from CNN, Wired, National Geographic, OC Register and other outlets. But when Phoenix passed a critical point outside the entry of the atmosphere, cheers from the control room video feed and within the pressroom were blurted out. Now, we all stand by as Phoenix enters the atmosphere...

Photo by Zach Behrens/LAist