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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 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.

"A politician stumbles over himself... Then they pick it out. They edit it. He runs the clip, and then he makes a funny face, and the whole audience has a Pavlovian response." -- Joe Scarborough on John Stewart over Jim Cramer
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