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. CDN Marc

    So many negative comments.. Why? Congrats to NASA for the accomplishment! Bravo from Canada! These rovers have given us so many beautiful pictures of a misterious planet other than our own. Looking forward for the next generation of Rovers and possibly manned missions!

    May 25, 2011 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
  2. George

    Have they tried Facebook or Twitter?

    May 25, 2011 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • MrMailman

      It changed it's status to "Single" does not want to be bothered.

      May 25, 2011 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
  3. bailout

    Send the Maytag repairman. Give him a shot at fixing it.

    May 25, 2011 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
  4. appcomplain

    Lost contact?? thats what NASA says. Transformers on Mars? wouldnt that be something.

    May 25, 2011 at 12:56 pm | Report abuse |
  5. BigNutz

    Can't you all see, we were duped the US Government!!!!! They hired Disney to do this on a stage in Arizona!!! Oh wait....wrong conspiracy...

    May 25, 2011 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Babooshka

    Some martians took it home to their cave, it makes a good coffee making machine...

    May 25, 2011 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Tony

    Well, they got a heck of a lot more than they expected out of both these rovers. Every day after the three month life expectancy was gravy. So I suppose we can't really be all that disappointed.

    May 25, 2011 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
  8. TallyChick

    Talking about getting some bang for your buck! Only supposed to last 3 months and it's been in services for years!!!

    May 25, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Niraj

    Wow, such idiots posting nonsense here...
    This was a triumph of science and technology!! Wonderful job by NASA.
    The images, scientific data gathered using those rovers were things to die for... they seriously outlasted their mission time!! by 6 years! Are you kidding me! That was pure awesome.

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

    Kudos to NASA and the design team. To all the naysayers and those complaining about waste, are you posting from your smart phone, tablet, blackberry or laptop? Maybe over a wireless network? What industry do you think made these things possible? I wish more things were built this way; this little robot exceeded its mission parameters, never saw the inside of an overpriced repair shop and mananged to phone home for years over hundreds of thousands of miles. Good job NASA!!!

    May 25, 2011 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Predator Drone

    I'm suprised no one is blaming Obama for it.

    May 25, 2011 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Predator Drone

    I'm surprised no one has blamed Obama for it , since he get the blame for everything that goes wrong and never gets the credit for any good thing he does.

    May 25, 2011 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
  13. my2commoncents

    They should do a search and rescue mission with rover opportunity to find spirit and flip him back over so he can get some solar juice and be back online to e.t. phone home!

    May 25, 2011 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
  14. bobcat2u

    It will be even cooler when we actually have humans on mars. Talk about all the childhood fantasies being fullfilled. I've been on this rock for a whole lot of years now. Long before any kind of space travel was possible. Let's see it happen before my end.

    May 25, 2011 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Cambob

    NASA failed to mention the last communication from Spirit was "HELP ME! OH GOD, THE HORROR!"

    May 25, 2011 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • That's the Spirit!

      What a mega successful series of missions!!

      May 25, 2011 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
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