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NASA sees Phoenix Mars lander's dusty grave 10 years later

NASA's Phoenix lander is long dead and now the Martian elements are giving it a good dusting over.

We may have to send a Dustbuster to Mars some day.  

NASA's Phoenix lander was never meant to have a long lifespan. It launched in 2007, reached Mars in 2008 and spent a matter of months studying its surroundings. Now, roughly 10 years later, NASA has taken a fresh look at the Phoenix site and discovered a dusty shroud over the lander.

The image on the left shows the landing site in 2008. The red arrows point to the lander at the top and the parachute and back shell at the bottom.The right image shows how the site looked in late 2017. 

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona/Red arrows by Amanda Kooser/CNET

Phoenix touched down in an arctic region of Mars on an initial three-month mission to study the planet's history of water and look for areas that might be able to host life. NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter snapped an image of the landing site in mid-2008 and then again in December 2017

The images both show the lander (near the top) and its back shell and parachute (near the bottom). What's very different is the amount of dust covering NASA's hardware and the dark markings that once surrounded them. 

An animated GIF really makes the differences stand out.

This GIF blinks between the 2008 and 2017 images of the Phoenix landing site on Mars.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

Phoenix ended up delivering five months of operation, which included an investigation of Mars soil. "The solar-powered robot was not designed to survive through the dark and cold conditions of a Martian arctic winter," says NASA.