After the near-destruction of the Polaris Orbital Hotel, the Polaris company was purchased by Helios along with the ruined hotel, with the aim of reusing the hotel as a part of the Phoenix, which would spin to create centrifugal gravityW for the crew. The ship itself, along with the mission, was revealed during a press conference during 1992, wherein it was announced that the mission would be ready for launch at the next launch window in 1994 and that it would be captained by (now ex) NASA astronaut Edward Baldwin after he was removed from the NASA Sojourner 1 mission to Mars.
The ship constructed between 1992 and 1994, during which time it was visited by its construction and operational crew using Polaris Shuttles. Initially it was planned that the craft be largely automated, however commander Edward Baldwin demanded that the ship be brought back to a more traditional manual configuration, to which Dev Ayesa conceded.
The craft was launched in 1994 within 2 weeks of the American Sojourner 1 and Soviet Mars-94 vehicles. At first, it appeared as though Phoenix was definitely going to beat the other craft to Mars, but the deployment of a solar sail on Sojourner-1 pushed them ahead. Additionally, Mars-94 burned their engines to dangerous extremes, pushing them even further, putting them in first place whilst Phoenix was last.
The engines of Mars-94 malfunctioned, which caused dangerous levels of radiation within their craft, leading to the necessity of a rescue mission. In theory, the Phoenix was perfect for a rescue mission, having a landing craft that could be used as a ferry, and a greater crew capacity than the American craft. In spite of this, it was decided by the ground control of Helios Aerospace that they would press on to Mars.
The crew of the Phoenix attempted to conduct the rescue mission regardless, however found that they were unable to light their engines due to a piece of code that was sent from Earth during the no-go message from Helios mission control, forcing the Sojourner (which lacked a subsidiary craft and had a smaller crew compartment) to conduct the mission, forfeiting the Mars mission. Commander Baldwin attempted to conduct the mission in lieu of Dev Ayesa's command, but a software update removed crew control from the craft, forcing the Phoenix to continue onwards. This decision led to the Sojourner craft taking great damage when the Mars-94 malfunctioned a second time.
However, the Sojourner-1 survived this damage and was able to refuel using the Soviet craft. Due to dust storms on Mars, the Helios mission was unable to attempt landing until the Sojourner was already in orbit. An attempt at landing was made by Baldwin and Danny Stevens in the Popeye MSAM lander, but it was aborted by Baldwin due to navigation failures caused by the storm. Subsequently, the Sojourner became the first craft to land on the Martian surface, though the Helios craft was able to land at a later date. Due to damage caused by the Mars-94 disaster, the American craft was left too damaged to take off from the Martian surface once more, leading to Phoenix and Popeye becoming the sole craft capable of taking all three crews back to Earth.
- Ed Baldwin - Commander
- Danny Stevens
- Nick Corrado
- Louisa Mueller
- Adarsh Sethi
- Benjamin Harmon
- Zizzo Glover
- Lars Hagstrom
- Sandy Bostik
- 3 additional crew members
Helios used their in-house developed "Osprey-methane" engines, which they attached to the former Polaris space station.
As a former space hotel, the habitation module of Phoenix is very spacious and can probably crew dozens of personnel. The exact amount of crew for their mission to Mars is currently unknown, only that it is more than 15. Initially, Dev Ayesa even considered taking artists on the trip.
The ship has also plenty of space for scientific research instruments and everything needed to access and survive on the Martian surface.
The craft itself appears to be around 312 meters long, going by the diameter of Polaris (137 meters at its largest dimension).