In our last PDS release, HiRISE made available our images (to date) of an area where the Mars Polar Lander is suspected to have crashed in 1999. MPL was the first mission to the high latitudes of Mars, but failed mysteriously, the
first [Correction: second] of two high-profile failures in America’s Mars program at the time. An assessment team found a number of potential causes of the crash; the condition of MPL, if found, may help to resolve what actually happened.
There is a large area covered at high resolution in these images. I think some of our team members have looked over the images but they have not found a trace of MPL. You may in fact be the first person to see MPL in the nearly ten years since it left Earth.
In the wake of MPL, NASA canceled a planned 2001 lander. The University of Arizona, which had a significant presence in both missions, proposed the Phoenix Mars Scout mission, “rising from the ashes” of these missions. Phoenix, as you might expect, it said to be very thoroughly tested. On 2008 May 25th, Phoenix will be landing in the high northern latitudes (above the equivalent of the Arctic Circle on Earth).
In this PDF document graciously provided by Tim Parker, you can see what various types of hardware look like to HiRISE. It also shows examples of cosmic-ray hits in order to distinguish them from real space junk.
Here are links to our web pages providing information and downloads for our images of the MPL site.