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. Steve

    In the years to come, some astronaut will land on Mars, and kick Spirit on the upside, like that lawn mower that won't start, and it will work again. Congrats to NASA for a job done well beyond expectations.

    May 25, 2011 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      Right, and then Spirit will flare to life, destroy the astronaut, take over their ship and invade Earth. Maybe kicking robots on other planets isn't smart...what could possibly go wrong?

      May 25, 2011 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Barry

      Well said.

      May 25, 2011 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Logan

      @Dave! ROFL!!! 😀

      May 25, 2011 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • wzrd1

      Yep, it's been a LONG 90 SOL mission, that much is certain. It WOULD be funny if an astronaut DID land nearby, kick it and it sprang back to life again though.
      That is one excellent design, operating WAY beyond the mission requirement, with minimal problems.

      May 25, 2011 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • DM

      Dave, how many times do you have to keep on with this. I'm nobody, can't do anything and don't want to. You Win. You know everything about me. You obviously wish me dead and you will get your wish.

      May 25, 2011 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
  2. QuietStormX

    I wonder if NASA will go after the missing rover to see what really happened? I'm sure they have the last location to know where it is. Don't they have a satilite taking detail pictures of the planet. Maybe they could see it in detailed photos. I want to know what really happen to it.

    May 25, 2011 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • M W

      What do you mean, "what happened to it"?!?

      "Created for a three-month mission, Spirit landed on Mars in January 2004 and exceeded its intended life span by several years"

      May 25, 2011 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hexdragon

      If I remember correctly they sent it into hibernation for the Martian Winter and it didn't come out. There was speculation that the solar panels were covered with dust and the rover was unable to charge

      May 25, 2011 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • wzrd1

      It broke down. It was designed to last 90 Sols, which are a bit longer than an Earth day. It's lasted 25 times as long.
      I'd love to do a post mortem on it as well, just to see the exact failures caused by the harsh environment there. But, it's a GREAT design, for it to last so long and work so well during that time!

      May 25, 2011 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Amy Wong

      A buggalo stomped on it.

      May 25, 2011 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jason

      @ M W – Osama died 10 years ago from Marfans, How can we not eat ourselves into a coma with all the awesome advertizing, who cares about the oceans, and remote control cars are awesome!!!

      There, the typical american answer. But really...did you expect any different?

      May 25, 2011 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
  3. kite005

    I bet it got a picture of a Martian who a wee bit too much too drink and let himself be photographed and they decided they had to disable it.

    May 25, 2011 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Jason

    Assembled in America, but I'm sure all the parts were from China. Just like Legos.

    May 25, 2011 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      Are you saying that because it was created for a 3 month mission but lasted over 6 years?

      May 25, 2011 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • sanforce

      So, you're saying Chinese parts are good right? Because these parts lasted for 2400% of their original goal (100% = 3 months)....

      May 25, 2011 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • notta me

      The only thing made in china the rover has is jealousy.

      May 25, 2011 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • asgardshill

      (in Russian accent)


      May 25, 2011 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Chris

    Just the fact that they can pull this sort of thing off is enough for me to want to keep them well funded. I have no problems paying more in taxes as long as its going toward good causes and not into rich peoples pockets.....

    May 25, 2011 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Ang

    So how much money is this costing the American taxpayers? It's uninhabitable and a waste of resources.

    May 25, 2011 at 12:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • stu

      Waist of money????? The rovers that were supposed to work for only 3 months ended up working for more then seven years. And one is still operational. Id say they got their moneys worth on this one.

      May 25, 2011 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mindlayr

      It's worth it in the science and inspiration. Small minds will say what a waste of money while others will see that all that money went back into our system and was used for our society. We didn't box up millions of dollars in cash and send it to Mars.

      May 25, 2011 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Anson

      "It's uninhabitable and a waste of resources."
      So is Arizona, but we keep sending THEM money.

      From Mars, we've gathered knowledge from "Spirit" and "Opportunity."

      The only thing we've gotten from Arizona is Jan Brewer and Joe Arpaio – "The Mean Spirit" and "Mr. Opportunity."

      May 25, 2011 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hexdragon

      The thing is, in the distant future the Earth will resemble Mars.

      May 25, 2011 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • UHhello

      Ditto on the AZ comment! the fact is MARs is the most habitable planet in our solar system. It could be a source of future resources for millennia to come.

      May 25, 2011 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • BigNutz

      Shut up Ang...........

      May 25, 2011 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Just Trust Me

      Cave....You....Go now....

      May 25, 2011 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jack

      Sorry Ang, this is the year 2011. All the family you knew from 1820 are long dead. We would send you back to your time, but the taxpayers won't fund a time machine.

      May 25, 2011 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Dennis

    Thank you little robot.

    May 25, 2011 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tinny Tim

      You are most welcome, sir.

      May 25, 2011 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Ben

    Spirit gave us some great images and incredible intel. Congrats to NASA on a job very well done one a project that far exceeded expectations.

    May 25, 2011 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
  9. M W

    This is awesome. I took 10 years to find Osoma. Americans refuse to stop eating themselves to death, and we still know very little about our own oceans.
    But we can have remote controlled cars driving around Mars for years. Great.

    May 25, 2011 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mindlayr

      It's sad that you see it that way. Try to think of all the paychecks that were generated by those 'remote controlled cars driving around Mars for years' and all the science that was developed and applied. How many people went to college on that money.

      May 25, 2011 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • UHhello

      Are you making a point or just grumbling?

      May 25, 2011 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • notta me

      How do you know we know little about the oceans? boy, you believe everything the government concocts. Everyone knows alien bases litter the deep ocean floor and by treaty we are not to interfere with each other.

      May 25, 2011 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Tarmac

    I thought it was established that the Decepticons were to blame for the Mars rover failure.

    May 25, 2011 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
  11. M U

    What a terribly slanted article. For a better view of what NASA thinks of Spirit/Opportunity, read the article about this topic on space.com.

    May 25, 2011 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
  12. UHhello

    Some people probably wont see it this way but I see this as a huge return on investment for the American tax payer. This thing was budgeted to perform for 3 months and lasted 7 yrs longer! We should do the following 1. Thank our design and mfg team for making such a seemingly indestructable pc of equipment. 2. Stop people when they critizes NASA or space exploration budget increases. The people of Earth will be learning from the data these two probes have tranmitted for years to come, how can you put a price tag on that kind of knowledge?

    May 25, 2011 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • wzrd1

      For a price tag, it is easy. Invaluable. The data was far, far, far more than was originally planned for, proving that the two rovers were one of the best investments ever made!
      Hopefully the new rovers will be built and sent and perform at least as well as the two rovers that are there now.
      Rest in peace, little Spirit, you've inspired an entire generation and earned your place in the hall of fame of all explorers.

      May 25, 2011 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Grizzly

    "Find out what happened to it?" They know exactly where it is, this isn't a mystery. It's been stuck in a dune for the last year and a bit.

    May 25, 2011 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Johnny 5

    I believe the plan is to colonize this planet in the near future. The atmosphere would need slight alterations for humans to inhabit mars and we now have the technology to make these alterations possible.

    May 25, 2011 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • wzrd1

      SLIGHT modification? It's a near vacuum, the pressure lower than Earth's atmospheric pressure at 40000 feet, which is 100% lethal to humans.

      May 25, 2011 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Skynet

      Mars also doesn't have enough gravity to hold an ozone layer. Any time there is a solar wind some of the Martian atmosphere flies out into space due to the weak magnetic field. Err something to that effect. Humans would need radiation protective habitats and suits as well as oxygen supplies. Simply terraforming would not be enough.

      May 25, 2011 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
  15. brad1001

    This is what NASA is good at. Unmanned exploration is by far more effecient than manned flights. If NASA wants to fling probes in every direction, s'ok with me.

    May 25, 2011 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • ItKeepsGoingAndGoing

      100% agreement with that – probably a thousand times cheaper, and the science gathered by a robot on a long-term mission would be much more worthwhile than watching some guys land, get a little red dust on their suits, and then leave. Go robots!

      May 25, 2011 at 6:52 pm | Report abuse |
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