Spirit may be fading on Mars, NASA says
An August 2004 image from NASA's Mars rover Spirit shows a rock outcrop on the red planet.
May 25th, 2011
11:48 AM ET

Spirit may be fading on Mars, NASA says

NASA to Mars rover:  Phone home or else.

The space agency said it will reach out to contact the Mars rover Spirit a final time Wednesday after a series of unanswered attempts.

NASA speculates that an extreme Martian winter may have frozen the rover’s communication apparatus or weakened its energy level, hindering its ability to communicate.

In a press release Tuesday, NASA said, in essence, what we have here is a failure to communicate.

"We no longer believe there is a realistic probability of hearing from Spirit," Dave Lavery, NASA’s program executive for solar system exploration, said in the release.

Created for a three-month mission, Spirit landed on Mars in January 2004 and exceeded its intended life span by several years, giving scientists an in-depth look at the surface conditions of the red planet.

But there have been obstacles - namely massive dust storms, paralyzing sandboxes and plain ol' feisty weather that has challenged the rover's functionality.

Over most of the past seven years though, despite various violent conditions, Spirit has always managed to re-establish connection.

Not this time.

The last transmission received by the rover was March 22, 2010, NASA said.

The rover program will now focus its energies on Spirit’s twin rover, Opportunity, which landed 21 days after Spirit. Also, NASA is prepping the November launch of Curiosity, a bigger, more-tricked out rover (six 20-inch wheels?) slated to arrive on Mars in mid-2012.

As for Spirit, NASA said any communication from the rover will basically be relegated to voice mail.

“The Deep Space Network may occasionally listen for any faint signals when the schedule permits," Lavery is quoted in the release.

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Filed under: Mars • Space • Technology
soundoff (230 Responses)
  1. Joey

    When I see rovers falling to and fro,
    I like to think some boy's been kicking them.

    May 25, 2011 at 11:58 am | Report abuse |
  2. DanoMcRoo

    Al Gore says that the extreme martian winter is the result of global warming.

    May 25, 2011 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • SgtSerge

      There is no life on Mars.... wonder why? Climate may not be good for life? You make a dumb point.

      May 25, 2011 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • HerpDerp



      May 25, 2011 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rob

      You win 9 internets for this.

      May 25, 2011 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |

      Actually, Mars has been heating up in recent years. There is an unexplained buildup in methane in the martian air that is not the result of geological processes like volcanic eruptions. One theory is bacteria on Mars are producing the methane.

      Good attempt at a joke about global warming. Too bad it is actually happening there. Ya know, Mars heating up in a lower solar activity cycle, possibly due to microbial life.

      May 25, 2011 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sutler

      @ SCIENCE
      Alien farts?! BRILLIANT!

      May 25, 2011 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
  3. bob

    Originally intended for 3 months. Has been working for over 7 years.

    And they say the American worker doesn't get enough vacation 😉

    May 25, 2011 at 12:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ian

      +8 clever points for Bob.

      May 25, 2011 at 12:10 pm | Report abuse |
  4. sanjosemike

    Sometimes you buy a car and it turns out to last many years beyond what you ever expected. By any stretch, NASA got its moneys worth with both Mars Rovers. Beyond their wildest dreams. They still have one going. Utterly amazing!

    But don't count Spirit out entirely. You never know when a freak dust storm will clear out its solar panels and re-establish power.

    May 25, 2011 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
  5. eric

    It appears global warming should be renamed solar system warming since the extreme weather is happening on Mars too. Oh, dear.

    May 25, 2011 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • SgtSerge

      There is also no life on Mars.... hummmm.

      May 25, 2011 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Deryk Houston

    I had asked Steve Squyres at the rover team to engage the rover ( before it got stuck) .....to create a work of art .......a very simple wiggle line representing an egg being fertilzed......life on mars...... mankind going from cave walls to the surface of another planet...... but I was told that the rovers were for science and that there was no room for art. This was dissapointing to me because I always thought the the best science was done by people who thought outside the box..... like artists.

    May 25, 2011 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bruce

      I'm an artist and that's just a ridiculous comment. I'm glad they didn't entertain that idea.

      May 25, 2011 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kim

      Your idea is not practical. While I agree, art and science should both be considered equally important, this is not the time or the place to be creating art. The rover was built to discover and explore, not to be a $820 million paint brush.

      May 25, 2011 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Skolo

    Built in America.....not China. That's why it lasted 28 times longer than expected.

    May 25, 2011 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Deryk Houston

    I would still like to see a simple wiggle line created on the surface of mars or the moon some time in the future. I believe that we need to expand science to include the arts. Some of the best leaps in science have been made by people who look at the world in different ways, by people who challenge the current thinking of science.
    The rover team had been blessed with rovers that far exceeded their expected time and yet they still could not even entertain the idea that perhaps the creation of a very simple art design might inspire and touch peoples hearts back on earth, All they could see was rocks.
    I hope future teams of scientists take a much broader, more creative approach and consider my idea.

    May 25, 2011 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • MyOtherName

      Ok, you've said this twice, that doesn't mean it's any closer to making any sense at all. You do realize that there is extreme winds and dust storms on Mars, correct? Your dumb little wiggle line would probably last about as long as if you made a wiggle line on the beach here on earth. If your motive is possibly to leave something behind for others (other than us) in the future to possibly see, do you think they'd be interested in a few Rovers, or a stupid wiggle line? I think in this case, science can represent art. Be happy with the tire tracks they leave in the dirt, I'm sure they zig-zagged somewhere on that planet.

      May 25, 2011 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Brent

    At this moment, on Mars, within Area 510000, some Martian engineer is dissecting the rover.

    May 25, 2011 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
  10. -D

    Landed January 2004, last communication was March 2010. That would be closer to 6 years, not over 7. Still, Impressive for the rover, not so much for the writer of the article.

    May 25, 2011 at 12:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • DanoMcRoo

      It was reported that (D) Shela Jackson Lee just asked if NASA would be sending someone up to fix it!

      May 25, 2011 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Roverman3000

      A year on Mars is different than a year on Earth. HA, ROVERMAN RULES!!!!!!

      May 25, 2011 at 6:38 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Joey

    Don't you realize that somebody on Mars is repairing them?

    May 25, 2011 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Sensible_Centrist

    Sigh... If only Congress was as RELIABLE and HARD WORKING as Rover. 🙁

    May 25, 2011 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Joey

    Sorry–I'd missed the post that got there first.

    May 25, 2011 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
  14. jbrunken

    Rover rapture

    May 25, 2011 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Rob

    I have photographic proof there is life on Mars to those interested. I also can verify that global warming caused this life to not be as noticable as well as it has a direct result on our gas prices.

    May 25, 2011 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
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