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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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RE: RIP
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.


RE: RIP
By StevoLincolnite on 4/5/2010 9:15:46 AM , Rating: 5
quote:
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


RE: RIP
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.

http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/mer/news/mer2010...


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