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Phoenix Mars Mission: Ashes To Ice

Airs Wednesday, October 19, 2011 at 11 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander monitors the atmosphere overhead and reaches out to the soil below in this artist's depiction of the spacecraft fully deployed on the surface of Mars.

"Phoenix Mars Mission: Ashes To Ice" chronicles the story of the Phoenix Mars Lander, which launched in August 2007 and was scheduled to land on the Martian surface on May 25, 2008.

The scientific mission is led by principal investigator Peter H. Smith of the University of Arizona in partnership with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Lockheed Martin Space Systems, the Canadian Space Agency and other organizations from around the world.

The program features interviews with scientists who discuss the spacecraft's custom instruments and the intricate preparations that preceded the launch. After touchdown, the lander will collect soil and ice samples to search for trace organics and for evidence of how water has changed the subsurface environment. The scientists hope to determine where the water on Mars went.

In chronicling the team's efforts to ensure Phoenix will rise from the ashes and successfully complete its mission, "Phoenix Mars Mission: Ashes To Ice" provides a fascinating account of one of humanity's most exciting and ambitious journeys.

Video

Preview: Phoenix Mars Mission: Ashes To Ice

Watch the full episode. See more PBS Presents.

Above: This program chronicles the story of the Phoenix Mars Lander, which launched in August 2007 and was scheduled to land on the Martian surface on May 25, 2008.