On this day in history in 2007 NASA launched its Phoenix spacecraft on a mission to Mars. The Phoenix mission was the first chosen for NASA’s Scout program, an initiative for smaller, lower-cost, competed spacecraft. Named for the resilient mythological bird, Phoenix used a lander that was intended for use by 2001’s Mars Surveyor lander prior to its cancellation. It also carries a complex suite of instruments that are improved variations of those that flew on the lost Mars Polar Lander. Phoenix landed farther north than any previous mission, in an effort to find evidence of water on Mars. During the course of its three-month mission, Phoenix checked samples of soil and ice for evidence about whether the site was ever hospitable to life. Read more about the project.