The above image was returned to the team assigned the task of selecting a landing spot for this summer’s launch of the Phoenix lander. This has been considered for years and once the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter was placed in orbit around Mars, one of it’s highest priority tasks was the image this proposed area. As you can see, what was previously thought to be a fairly flat safe place to put down a lander has turned out instead to be littered with boulders that compare in size to the lander itself. Many missions to Mars in human history have ended in failure, especially when including the many Russian probes which were lost to various problems. Attempting to touch down in this area could certainly have spelled doom for the Phoenix lander and we would never have known without the high resolution eyes of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
Maybe NASA would have gotten lucky again, but this looks to many as a disaster avoided.