Print 15 comment(s) - last by Grabo.. on Jan 27 at 7:05 AM

Phoenix may be lost forever, but researchers unsure

NASA recently confirmed its Phoenix Mars lander may be frozen and could finally be lost for good, but has two spacecraft circling Mars looking for signs of life.

Odyssey is monitoring all radio transmissions, while the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter took pictures revealing where the Phoenix was located.  It's located in a dry ice field that is slowly thawing now that spring is approaching at the Martian north polar plains.  Scientists didn't design Phoenix to endure the harsh Martian winter, but NASA officials hope to re-establish contact as the Martian North Pole begins to heat up.

Odyssey will attempt to monitor communications from Phoenix, but it's becoming less likely researchers will be able to regain full control of the orbiter.

University of Arizona researchers said it was unlikely they'll hear signals before they try again in February, especially after months of darkness and extremely low temperatures.  Even in April -- when constant sunlight will hit the same location -- but researchers can only hope it wakes up.

Both Phoenix and Spirit have outlasted their anticipated lifelines on Mars -- and have provided additional clues about the Martian surface.  After first reaching the planet in May 2008, Phoenix lasted more than five months longer than expected.  Furthermore, it also found evidence of water below the Martian surface, with researchers disappointed over the possible loss of the rover.

It's a shame that the run is finally over, but NASA has been able to learn so much more about the Martian surface directly because of Phoenix.  I hope it can thaw and communicate with Earth controllers again this spring, but it's looking even more unlikely.

Spirit is currently in its own battle to survive, but it's also unsure if it will be able to finally claw its way out of a massive sand trap.

"The explanation here is that the rover's rear wheels are climbing, raising the back of the rover," according to NASA officials.  "Images from the rear hazard avoidance camera confirm this."

Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

Can do attitude wasting efforts.
By fatedtodie on 1/22/2010 9:24:18 AM , Rating: 2
While I appreciate a can do attitude and not giving up as much as the next guy... hasn't this thing been stuck for almost a year now? (maybe only 6 months but whatever) can they not... umm move on?

Design a new probe (I think they already have) and deploy it... life goes on.

That being said, I hope they do find something living so the tree huggers can whine about protecting that too... /sarcasm

RE: Can do attitude wasting efforts.
By ianweck on 1/22/2010 10:52:18 AM , Rating: 2
Can't they just do both? Launch a new probe and try to free the old one?

RE: Can do attitude wasting efforts.
By kd9280 on 1/22/2010 11:06:57 AM , Rating: 2
Like ianwreck said:

Do both if possible. Mars is not a small place. Having rovers covering interesting places, doing experiments, and collecting information is great. But it's hard to do if you only have one rover covering it at one time.

Besides... I like Spirit. I want it to pull through and get unstuck!

RE: Can do attitude wasting efforts.
By geddarkstorm on 1/22/2010 2:21:26 PM , Rating: 5
Yes, there is a new rover on the way, that's almost SUV sized; the mars mobile laboratory. It'll be 2011 or something like that.

But, why not try to free Spirit? It's a big investment and it only costs radio waves to work with it.

However, most importantly, trying to free Spirit is teaching the engineers, scientists, and operators how to handle these situations and what can happen. This can help us to avoid losing far more valuable and costly rovers like the aforementioned lab one going soon.

So no, their attempts to free Spirit are not simply a "can do attitude", it's important research in its own right.

RE: Can do attitude wasting efforts.
By Divineburner on 1/23/2010 12:28:32 AM , Rating: 2
I wouldn't want the Mars Science Laboratory to go about extracting Spirit. After all, Spirit had greatly outlived its intended lifespan, and the MSL is simply not built for an extraction/rescue mission.

It would not cost only 'radio waves', but it would also take valuable time off proper scientific research, not to mention that MSL might risk getting stuck in the same region.

Further more, its average speed of 30m/h makes it kind of hard to even go to Spirit. The main problem with Spirit is whether it would survive the upcoming Martian winter, which would arrive much earlier than the expected landing date of MSL.

By Bruneauinfo on 1/24/2010 1:55:42 PM , Rating: 2
at what point did he imply MSL was going to try to free Spirit? read his post again.

Lander? Orbiter? Or rover?
By Old Man Dotes on 1/22/2010 12:13:46 PM , Rating: 2
Odyssey will attempt to monitor communications from Phoenix, but it's becoming less likely researchers will be able to regain full control of the orbiter.
I understood it was the lander that was sitting in a field of dry ice; when did problems with the orbiter get mentioned?

RE: Lander? Orbiter? Or rover?
By JediJeb on 1/22/2010 5:35:31 PM , Rating: 2
I notice that too. Phoenix was called a lander, orbiter, and rover in the article.

Got it right yet?
By Harywood on 1/22/2010 8:44:34 PM , Rating: 3
I'm shocked he kept referring to same planet!

Spirit was still incredible
By JBird7986 on 1/25/2010 1:22:00 PM , Rating: 2
If they lose Spirit, it will be a shame, but no one can ask anything more out of it or Opportunity. These rovers were designed to survive on Mars for 90 days upon landing back in 2004. They've now been running for over SIX YEARS! I said this about a year ago, but even the USS Enterprise only went on Five Year missions! They've been great, and given us a lot of data, and when they go, they will be missed, but they've done their jobs many times over.

By Grabo on 1/27/2010 7:05:13 AM , Rating: 2
..I can recommend the Planetary Society's blog:

Mrs. Lakdawalla observes bits of the politics that preceded this move (but mostly she writes about interesting technical details).

"We don't know how to make a $500 computer that's not a piece of junk." -- Apple CEO Steve Jobs

Copyright 2015 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki