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Visions of Mars ... and more!

NASA / JPL-Caltech / UA / TAMU
The Surface Stereo Imager on Phoenix Mars Lander sent back this view of the
probe's workspace in Mars' north polar region at the mission's 90-day mark. Click
on the image for a larger view from the Phoenix imaging team.

Looking for the latest, greatest, biggest pictures from the Red Planet and other celestial hot spots? We've got 'em right here - starting with some fresh views of the Phoenix Mars Lander's excavations and the Opportunity rover's climb-out from the biggest crater it's visited.

Phoenix was originally scheduled to conduct a 90-day mission to study water ice and other chemicals in the frosty soil of Mars' north polar region. The mission has already been extended through the end of next month, but this week Phoenix sent back a visual progress report as it passed the 90-day mark - or more accurately, the 90-sol mark, because Martian days are slightly longer than Earth days.

The picture you see above is a mosaic that shows the workspace surrounding the lander. Phoenix has been digging up a storm over the past few months, so another picture shows the 4-inch-high (10-centimeter-high) mound of excavated soil piled up by the lander. Yet another picture shows an eerie Martian sunrise on the 90th day (which was Monday on Earth).

You've probably already guessed that you can get bigger versions of the Phoenix pictures from NASA's mission Web site or the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory.

Meanwhile, farther south, the Opportunity and Spirit rovers are continuing their work on opposite sides of the Red Planet. Opportunity has spent nearly a year studying intriguing layers of bedrock down in Victoria Crater, but just today NASA reported that the six-wheeled robot has worked its way back up to level ground.

NASA / JPL-Caltech
NASA's Opportunity rover captured this view looking
back at its own tracks and Victoria Crater's Cape
Verde promontory Thursday after climbing back onto
level ground. Click on the image for a larger view.


The picture of the day shows what's now in Opportunity's rear-view mirror: Victoria Crater's Cape Verde promontory and the tracks rolling out of the crater. You can also check out a closer look at Cape Verde and a 180-degree panorama of Spirit's surroundings as that power-challenged rover waits out the Martian winter.

And to mark the Labor Day weekend, NASA has put together a slideshow that highlights the six U.S. flags on Mars. The flags are emblazoned on the two Mars rovers and Phoenix Mars Lander as well as three probes that have passed on: the Pathfinder lander and the two Viking landers.

There's plenty more to keep you clicking over the holiday weekend, including our latest roundup of celestial highlights in the "Month in Space" slide show. Every time we come out with a fresh selection, some folks ask where they can download larger versions of the imagery for their desktop or printer. Here are links to the bigger pictures, and in most cases additional background about the images as well:

I'll be taking Labor Day off, and regular postings will resume Tuesday.