Engineers are assembling the Phoenix spacecraft at the Lockheed Martin Space Systems facility in Littleton, Colorado. In this image, the bottom of the spacecraft is easily seen, including the hexagonally shaped hazard avoidance radar and the spherical hydrazine fuel tanks. (Image Credit: NASA/LMSS)
While the spacecraft is being assembled in Colorado, a parallel test effort will be occurring at the Phoenix Science Operations (SOC) Center, Tucson, Arizona. The SOC houses the Payload Interoperability Testbed (PIT), a full mock up of the lander on the surface of Mars. The PIT will feature the ability to test the landed operation sequences for digging and sample delivery to the science instruments under many different types of soil compositions and densities (hard ice through loose sand). This will provide detailed data on the digging rate, energy, time, and amount of sample that can be expected in various soil conditions that can be encountered on the surface of Mars.
The flight descent thrusters, which are crucial to Phoenix safely landing on Mars, are being installed on the spacecraft. (Image Credit: NASA/LMSS)