NASA Concludes Attempts To Contact Mars Rover Spirit- An End Of A Story

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According to NASA, it is ending attempts to regain contact with the long-lived Mars Exploration Rover Spirit, which last communicated on March 22, 2010.

A transmission that will end on Wednesday, May 25, will be the last in a series of attempts. Extensive communications activities during the past 10 months also have explored the possibility that Spirit might reawaken as the solar energy available to it increased after a stressful Martian winter without much sunlight.

With inadequate energy to run its survival heaters, the rover likely experienced colder internal temperatures last year than in any of its prior six years on Mars. Many critical components and connections would have been susceptible to damage from the cold.

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Artist's Concept of Rover on Mars

An artist's concept portrays a NASA Mars Exploration Rover on the surface of Mars. Two rovers have been built for 2003 launches and January 2004 arrival at two sites on Mars. Each rover has the mobility and toolkit to function as a robotic geologist. Image credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell University.

The rover's motors worked far beyond their design life, but eventually, Spirit lost use of drive motors on two of its six wheels. This left it unable to obtain a favorable tilt for solar energy during the rover's fourth Martian winter, which began last May.

"The amount of solar energy available for Spirit is still increasing every day for the next few months. As long as that's the case, we will do all we can to increase the chances of hearing from the rover again." said Mars Exploration Rover Project Manager John Callas of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. in January this year.

Engineers' assessments in recent months have shown a very lowprobability for recovering communications with Spirit. Communications assets that have been used by the Spirit mission in the past, including NASA's Deep Space Network of antennas on Earth, plus two NASA Mars orbiters that can relay communications, now are needed to prepare for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission. MSL is scheduled to launch later this year.

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"Pot of Gold" rocks in Columbia Hills, Gusev Crater, Mars
A false-color image taken by the panoramic camera on the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit shows the rock dubbed "Pot of Gold" (upper left), located near the base of the "Columbia Hills" in Gusev Crater. Scientists are intrigued by this unusual-looking, nodule-covered rock. This picture was taken on sol 159 (June 14, 2004). Photo:NASA

"We're now transitioning assets to support the November launch of our next generation Mars rover, Curiosity," said Dave Lavery, program executive for solar system exploration. "However, while we no longer believe there is a realistic probability of hearing from Spirit, the Deep Space Network may occasionally listen for any faint signals when the schedule permits."

Spirit landed on Mars on Jan. 3, 2004, for a mission designed to last three months. After accomplishing its prime-mission goals, Spirit worked to accomplish additional objectives. Its twin, Opportunity,continues active exploration of Mars.

 

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