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.
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.
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.