Everything is looking good for the Phoenix Mars probe which is due to land on the Red Planet on Monday, mission scientists said.
“All systems are nominal and stable,” said Ed Sedivy, programme manager at Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver, US, which built the spacecraft. “We have plenty of propellant, the temperatures look good, and the batteries are fully charged.”
Phoenix is on target and predicted to have good weather with no significant dust storms around the landing site.
The spacecraft will undergo a series of tricky manoeuvres before executing a powered landing using pulsed retro-rockets.
It is due to touch down on the Martian arctic plain at 53 minutes past midnight Irish time.
The craft is the first to brake its descent with retro-rockets since the Viking 2 mission in 1976.
Other probes, like the two Mars Exploration Rovers which landed in 2002, bounced down on a cluster of air bags.
Phoenix’s primary mission is to find out if the northern polar region of Mars may ever have been suitable for life.
Scientists have detected vast amounts of water ice a short distance below the surface.
The probe has a robot arm with which to scoop up soil and ice, and an on-board laboratory to analyse the samples.
“The latest calculation from our navigation team shows the centre of the area where we’re currently headed lies less than eight miles from the centre of our target area,” said Barry Goldstein, Phoenix project manager at the American space agency Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
“We may decide on Saturday that we don’t need to use our final opportunity for fine-tuning the trajectory Phoenix is on.”
Phoenix will enter the Martian atmosphere at almost 13,000mph. After deploying its parachute and firing the retro rockets it will drop gently to the ground at just 5mph, landing on three legs.