Phoenix Probe Lands on Mars North Pole
(CNN) -- The first-ever landing of a probe near Mars' north pole took place successfully on Sunday, NASA confirmed.
The Mars Phoenix Lander, completing a 296-day journey, closed in on the Red Planet with a 50-50 chance of a successful touchdown on its arctic plains, NASA officials said.
The landing -- dubbed the "seven minutes of terror" -- was a nerve-wracking experience for mission managers, who have witnessed the failure of similar missions.
In mission control at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, they celebrated the lander's much-anticipated entry.
The Phoenix's 90-day mission is to analyze the soils and permafrost of Mars' arctic tundra for signs of past or present life.
The lander is equipped with a robotic arm capable of scooping up ice and dirt to look for organic evidence that life once existed there, or even exists now.