Phoenix Mars Lander, launched August 4, 2007, was the first successful landing of a spacecraft on Mars' north polar region. It took 10 months to travel to Mars and is the first mission to the Red Planet to be led by a public university, University of Arizona in Tucson. The Phoenix is a partnership of universities in the U.S., Canada, Switzerland, Denmark, Germany, the UK, NASA, the Candian Space Agency and Finnish Meteorological Institute.
It landed May 25, 2008 and completed its mission in August but continued until November, when the Martian winter set in. NASA hoped it would survive but as of May 2010 contact could not be re-established so Jet Propulsion Laboratory declared it dead. Since Phoenix completed all of its goals, it has been considered a success.
One surprise was the observation of snow from cirrus clouds. It had to be water-ice because the Martian atmosphere and temperatures are not favorable for carbon dioxide ice to form.