Print 34 comment(s) - last by JKflipflop98.. on Apr 6 at 4:28 AM

Mars rover Spirit hasn't communicated with a spacecraft despite being told to do so

Engineers from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory confirmed last week that the Mars rover Spirit didn't communicate with the Mars Odyssey spacecraft as scheduled. Spirit, which is likely in power-saving hibernation mode, has endured yet another harsh time on Mars against all odds -- though it is believed the rover will wake up at some point.

Scientists gave the struggling rover communication schedules for 2010 and 2011, with expected communication with NASA officials on Earth and the Mars Odyssey.

"We are checking other less likely possibilities for the missed communication, but this probably means that Spirit tripped a low-power fault sometime between the last downlink on March 22 and yesterday," said John Callas, Mars rover project manager, in a statement.

Spirit faces an even bigger problem now that less sunlight is hitting its solar panels, which means the rover's battery power is dwindling.  There was previous concern when a strong dust storm hit the Red Planet, covering the rover and its solar panels.  The rover became stuck in early 2010 -- and remains stuck -- though researchers hope it will still be able to conduct research on a limited basis.

NASA officials will continue to wait to hear back from Spirit, but will have to wait until its battery is fully charged.  

Both Spirit and Opportunity launched from Earth around seven years ago, and finally made it to Mars in early 2004.  Each rover has explored the Martian surface in an effort to learn as much as possible about the Red Planet.

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By ForumMaster on 4/5/2010 8:21:23 AM , Rating: 5
Come on NASA. The rovers are from freakin' 2004. Spirit landed on January 4, 2004. It's now April 2010. The rovers were designed for 3 months. They outlasted that. By now by more then 24 times. Good job NASA. Keep on designing rovers like that.

But at some point NASA, let Spirit die in peace.

May you rest in peace Spirit. (You to Opportunity)

By Sahrin on 4/5/2010 8:48:29 AM , Rating: 2
Seconded on the restful end for Spirit (if this is the end - so many times the pot has been called for them).

I would counter, though, that instead of designing more rovers like that - let's move up the ranks. If they can achieve that level of expertise with smallish solar rovers, imagine what they can do with x, y, and human habitation!

By TSS on 4/5/2010 9:07:24 AM , Rating: 3
Human habitation is still ways off, not so much due to Mars as to the problem of getting to Mars. Rovers don't die from space radiation, nor lose bone structure and muscle mass.

What i can't understand is not shooting 2 more rovers to mars. You've already got a design, so that saves a ton in research and development, and the current design has been proven to be more effective then the best scenario could ever have dreamed of.

Just upgrade some minor things that we've learned from these 2 and advances in technology (more efficient electronics, solar panels etc) and maybe the next 2 will last even longer.

I'm not saying research should be cut. But before we can even survive the trip there, alot of time will pass, time we could spend learning more about where we are planning to go to.

By Redwin on 4/5/2010 9:22:54 AM , Rating: 3

Its one big one instead of 2 more little ones.. they just decided on its name last week (Curiosity)

By Steve1981 on 4/5/2010 9:49:46 AM , Rating: 3
But will it kill the cat?

By corduroygt on 4/5/2010 11:15:59 AM , Rating: 5
No, the cat will be both dead and alive simultaneously until you check on its status.

By Bonesdad on 4/5/2010 8:37:04 PM , Rating: 2
Wow, no one has rated you up yet? Excellent...+1

By Dean364 on 4/5/2010 10:13:07 PM , Rating: 2
Ditto. Go Erwin.

By Captain Orgazmo on 4/6/2010 3:02:32 AM , Rating: 3
What I can't understand, is, why isn't the cat considered an observer? Stupid quantum physics never makes any sense...

By s d on 4/5/2010 12:27:01 PM , Rating: 2
By Xavi3n on 4/5/2010 3:24:39 PM , Rating: 2
There are already advances in Plasma Rocket technology, so that by the end of the year we should be able to get to Mars in 39 days. That largely negates any possible problems with Human Habitation on Mars.

What we "really" need however, is an easy way to get out of the atmosphere, we expend too much energy breaking free of our gravity well. The only future technology i can see that could help with this problem is Tethers, which are quite a long way away yet.

We also need a base on the Moon as a fuel station for longer voyages deeper into the reaches of the Solar System. It would take a lot of money, but I'm sure the benefits would far outweigh the costs.

By Souka on 4/5/2010 4:59:25 PM , Rating: 2
A Stargate would help to

By MadMan007 on 4/6/2010 2:31:29 AM , Rating: 3
Darnit, NASA can't tether? I knew they shouldn't have signed that multidecade agreement with AT&T >:(

By zmatt on 4/5/2010 9:09:59 AM , Rating: 2
Aside from showing off how long they can make these things run, is there any scientific purpose to having Sprint run right now? From the sounds of it, it takes all the power it has just to phone home and let us know it's still alive. Cool? Sure. Does it have a purpose? Not at all. Give the team that are sitting around and calling this a "job" something practical to do. I think it's awfully wasteful to spend time and man power on monitoring a craft that has already served it's purpose.

By StevoLincolnite on 4/5/2010 9:15:46 AM , Rating: 5
From the sounds of it, it takes all the power it has just to phone home and let us know it's still alive.

Or it uses the AT&T 3G deep space network. :P

By DanNeely on 4/5/2010 9:33:16 AM , Rating: 3
There is. Measuring how the planet wobbles gives information about it's internal structure. That's only possible with a stationary platform. The expensive parts of a probe are construction and launch. Getting data back is much cheaper so probes are generally kept alive as long as something useful can be done with them.

By ipay on 4/5/2010 9:42:15 AM , Rating: 5
By Drag0nFire on 4/5/2010 9:57:54 AM , Rating: 2
I was going to post this too...

By aegisofrime on 4/5/2010 10:48:45 AM , Rating: 2
Poor Spirit!

I do hope that we bring them back one day, when we humans have landed on Mars. Won't want Spirit to gain sentience and wreck havoc on us, like a little probe named V'ger ;)

By JKflipflop98 on 4/6/2010 4:28:31 AM , Rating: 2
WOW! That's a really cool thought.

I hope I'm alive to witness a group of men and women walk upon these heroic little rovers. Pixar needs to make a movie about this, STAT.

By abraxas1 on 4/5/2010 11:15:28 AM , Rating: 2
A very good reason for trying to keep them alive is to learn what causes the failures and how to correct them. This knowledge is then passed on to the next generation of rover.

If they learn how to fix or work around this problem, it may help to prevent the problem from happening again in the existing and new rovers.

By Gyres01 on 4/5/2010 11:23:52 AM , Rating: 3
These machines have far exceeded expectations and I hope someday that can be retrieved and placed in the Smithsonian or something. I wish Nasa could continue projects like this but it does not look good....

By Shig on 4/5/2010 11:52:56 AM , Rating: 2
That cartoon was awesome lol, thanks for posting.

By kd9280 on 4/5/2010 3:56:11 PM , Rating: 2
There are still a lot of uses for a non-mobile platform as well. Even if Spirit is stuck permanently, it's got sensors and cameras and all sorts of good stuff to be able to take a good look at Mars still.

Just killing the thing would be a huge disservice to "The Little Rover That Could."

Spirit fanboy, proud and true.

By CharonPDX on 4/5/2010 5:22:23 PM , Rating: 2
Uh, why let it "rest in peace"? It's an object. A tool. Use it 'till it's done!

You don't "retire" your car to a quiet life in your yard before it's completely used up, right? You get all the use you can! (Or you pass it on to someone else.) Or how about a cell phone? -- Okay, cars and cell phones may be bad examples, simply because they're things people tend to "upgrade" before they are "used up". How about a blender? You don't "retire" a blender just because three of the ten speeds don't work any more. You keep using it, in spite of its limitations. Or else you abandon it. You don't "let it rest in peace", though.

It's not like anything NASA can do with it will make it less "usable" in the future. About the only bad thing they could do would be drive it off a cliff to certain destruction. Unless we get some way to retrieve it as a historical artifact to give to the Smithsonian, even that wouldn't really matter, in the long run.

By ussfletcher on 4/5/2010 8:00:57 PM , Rating: 2
Just want to throw this out there, but NASA didn't build these and doesn't deserve the credit. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory built them on a NASA contract.

By Ben on 4/6/2010 1:59:50 AM , Rating: 2
They have to keep these going as long as they can because it doesn't look like we'll be sending anything else any time soon.


By Ben on 4/6/2010 2:04:09 AM , Rating: 3
Wow, didn't even know about the Curiosity. I figured Obama killed all these programs too.

I guess I should read before I open my mouth.

By xler8r on 4/5/2010 9:12:25 AM , Rating: 4
Howabout we get some people there and stop playing around. Will it take Hollywood making another 1 or two movies about Mars (lets hope not) to get it going?
Less money on foreign aid and public health care, more on NASA. :)

RE: Howabout...
By Shig on 4/5/2010 11:54:07 AM , Rating: 2
We need to get China or India to bankroll the next major manned space mission :)

RE: Howabout...
By JediJeb on 4/5/2010 5:19:10 PM , Rating: 2
Howabout we get some people there and stop playing around. Will it take Hollywood making another 1 or two movies about Mars (lets hope not) to get it going? Less money on foreign aid and public health care, more on NASA. :)

Better yet, make it a Reality Show and let Hollywood bankroll it. We might get there next season of that happens ;)

By Fracture on 4/5/2010 9:11:20 AM , Rating: 2
Decepticons trashed it.

RE: Damn...
By Schrag4 on 4/5/2010 11:37:07 AM , Rating: 2
Actually, Baljeet built a portal to Mars as a science fair project, and Candace accidentally went through it. She became queen of the martians when she destroys one of the 2 rovers. Phineas and Ferb use the other rover as a getaway vehicle, which must be what ran the battery out.

RE: Damn...
By DanNeely on 4/5/2010 1:18:07 PM , Rating: 2
Only one problem in your theory. It's the broken rover that's having communications trouble. The other one is still working normally.

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