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NASA gives up on Spirit, mission comes to a close

Artist concept of Mars Exploration Rover. Photo: NASA.

PASADENA (BNS): NASA said on Tuesday that it was abandoning efforts to get back in touch with the Spirit, one of the two rovers on Mars.

The US space agency is ending attempts to regain contact with the long-lived Spirit rover, which last communicated on March 22, 2010.

Spirit landed on Mars in January 2004, and was expected at the time to last about three months. Instead, it kept going for more than five years.

But, two years ago, the Spirit got stuck in a sand trap and then fell silent last year as winter arrived and its solar panels could no longer generate enough electricity.

Extensive communications activities during the past 10 months 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, NASA reports.

Engineers' assessments in recent months have shown a very low probability 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 (MSL) mission. MSL is scheduled to launch later this year.

"We're now transitioning assets to support the November launch of our next generation Mars rover, Curiosity," Dave Lavery, NASA’s program executive for solar system exploration, was quoted as saying in the news report.

Spirit has already accomplished its prime-mission goals. Its twin, Opportunity, continues to send back scientific data as it crosses the Martian surface toward the crater Endeavour.


NASA  Mars  Spirit  

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