Thursday, November 23, 2006

Hopes fade for Mars Global Surveyor

NASA is not giving up just yet, but after 10 days of increasingly ominous silence from the 10 year old Mars orbiting space probe, it looks like curtains. Launched on November 7, 1996, the mission was intended to last two years, but like the incredible longevity of the Spirit and Opporunity rovers, the probe surprised mission controllers by lasting long past its warranty. In the process, it took a staggering 240,000 pictures of the surface, but aftern receiving a signal indicating there were problems with a solar panel, the probe fell silent. NASA had hoped to catch a glimpse of the surveyor on Monday might from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, but nothing was seen. Hopes are now being pinned on an effort to instruct Mars Global Surveyor to send a single to one of the rovers below, asking it to switch on a beacon. If the beacon switches on, then this will provide a chance for mission controllers to pinpoint the location of the wayward probe.