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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 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.

"What would I do? I'd shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders." -- Michael Dell, after being asked what to do with Apple Computer in 1997
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