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. citizenUSA

    The Martians turned The Rover into a Karaoke machine.

    May 25, 2011 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marco


      May 25, 2011 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • scottprob

      kareoke machine! that's hilarious!

      May 25, 2011 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Capercorn

    Sheesh... I was in the sixth grade when they launched Spirit and Opportunity. I thought they were cool. And to bear in mind that these rovers were expected to stop functioning after 90 days. I dunno about you, but running for nearly 7 years... Spirit will be missed. It did some good science.

    May 25, 2011 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kevin K in Tx

      agreed, they should downplay the durability of their stuff more often... that way we will be super impressed more often... but they did do good science, that is a fact.

      May 25, 2011 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ken

      I would say absolutely an astounding achievement !!! Now, if they could roll that over into the manned sector of space flight. Get the politicians and pencil pushers out of the way and let Nasa engineers do their job. They killed the deep space effort (delayed it at least a decade more), and Obama buried it. When a scientist says he can't do the job for the money a non-scientist say it should take he means it. Please get out of his way.

      May 25, 2011 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • jj

      Kevin – you mean like 'yes, we assumed the space craft would crash into a moon. The fact that it crashed into its intended planetary landing zone was a great achievement, beyond all expectations!' ;>
      They need to remember to sell the sizzle with the (mis)steak!

      May 25, 2011 at 5:54 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Cujo

    All I know is that if they send that new rover up there with 20's on it, they are gonna wake up the next morning with that thing up on blocks You know how "martians" are when it comes to wheels.

    May 25, 2011 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marco

      LoL....A Dave Shappel skit came to mind. Know why aliens don't land in the ghetto?! Cause they know we'd jack dat sh...

      May 25, 2011 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
  4. BAM

    Money well spent, go NASA! Maybe we can spend a billion dollars to send something to Pluto to see if it is cold.

    May 25, 2011 at 2:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • oblix

      What if they find a big diamond mine there? Or a mineral that will replace oil efficiently? Don't think that these missions are funded by the money minded US government just to measure the temperature..

      May 25, 2011 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • phorse

      Another of the incurious that readily accepts the fruits of scientific inquiry while rejecting its methods. Bonehead.

      May 25, 2011 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Arick

      It isn't NASA's fault that you failed high school science class BAM.

      May 25, 2011 at 6:08 pm | Report abuse |
  5. McAfee

    Whenever I read about things like this I am always reminded of the Voyager 1 Probe, launched in 1977. As of 2011, the probe was able to receive a command signal to re-orient itself, and is at 117 AU from earth, leaving the Heliosphere. I never cease to be amazed by some of these devices.

    May 25, 2011 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Clay

      They just don't build 'em like they used to huh?

      May 25, 2011 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Jack BBBB

    When this little rover finally kicks the bucket does it simply roll over on its back, with its feet sticking up in the air?

    Poor little rover !!!!

    May 25, 2011 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
  7. rcooder

    "... lived long beyond it's life expectancy..."
    Well, we know GM didn't make it...

    May 25, 2011 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Rum Dumb

    It never ends with these guys. throw more money into it and everything will be fine.

    May 25, 2011 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
  9. patNY

    what about all the poor people here who can't get jobs and feed their babies we need to spend the nassa money here on earth and give jobs to the unemployed who can't get jobs what's the president doing here about this but he's in england having tea

    May 25, 2011 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • English Teacher

      That may be the longest run-on sentence that I have ever seen! Why stop at “nassa” money? Why not pull out of some countries are cut aid to some countries. There is a lot of money from the US that leaves our borders.

      May 25, 2011 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nish in Denver

      @patNY – "we need to spend 'nassa' money here on earth'... Um...ALL of Nasa's money is spent here on earth, do you think they sent the money for the program up to Mars on the Rover? And, by the way, who do you think builds, runs, and maintains these programs? Hint: They are located on earth, and some of them have babies.

      May 25, 2011 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Amazed

      First of all, NASA and its vendors create thousands of jobs – just not for those like you who can't write a coherent sentence. Second, the money spent on NASA benefits everyone. Without the research and breakthroughs developed by and for NASa, chances are you wouldn't have that computer sitting in front of you, or your cell phone to whine to your friends, or some of the medical advances that keep you and babies alive. You need to start thinking outside the box – not everything is solved (ie. poverty) by throwing money at it.

      May 25, 2011 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Meh

      Have less unwanted kids so there is more cash for NASA – at least the space program will amount to something

      May 25, 2011 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chad

      Most of the technology we have today that makes peoples lives easier came about because of NASA. Also they employ an incredibly large amount of workers all over the world. We should invest more in NASA and maybe just maybe they can find a new technology that will give cheap energy and food for all.

      May 25, 2011 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Matt S.

      PatNY perhaps if the poor and helpless here on earth had spent time educating themselves enough to spell "N.A.S.A" they could afford to feed their babies in the first place. Also perhaps if half of those mothers spent less of their unemployment money on cigarettes and beer and more on birth controll, but wait, you probobably think Planned parenthood is a waste of time too.

      May 25, 2011 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • yanni

      Good idea English teacher. Let's bring our troops home and stop pumping money into economies in Europe. We've had lots of base clsoing here at home that have hit communities hard–let the Euros get a taste of what that's like. Why should we spend U.S. lives and dollars to defend the Freanch way of life.

      May 25, 2011 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gary

      I agree 200 percent!! I say we immediately stop all spending on any new technology and we go back immediately to the stone age where life expectancy was 20 years old and the total population of the whole US continant was a few thousand, inbred monkeys. This damn modern technology causing us to live to 75 years old, owning cell fones and an IPADs is all overrated anyway. Gosh, think of a life of standing at the entrance of my cave all day and nailing anything that walks by, and nobody cares. Such a life. Yup, technology sucks.

      May 25, 2011 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Arick

      NASA directly employs tens of thousands of people, plus many more who work for contractors and such.

      May 25, 2011 at 6:16 pm | Report abuse |
  10. nobody special

    Way to go JPL!

    If you live in So. Cal, you owe it to yourself to check out their annual open house. Usually every May.


    May 25, 2011 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • I'm Special

      We all are.

      May 25, 2011 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
  11. DAMN

    Damn. a tricked out rover with 20 inch wheels! Better slap on some rims too. XD

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

    Can't say I would want to live on mars.

    May 25, 2011 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Flaming Liberal

    Bush's Fault...

    May 25, 2011 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Flaming Bag

      Go ahead. Stomp me. I smell bad.

      May 25, 2011 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Anon

    Just walk out in the dessert and hit the reset switch if you want to talk to it..

    May 25, 2011 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
  15. MeowTV2

    One day, aliens will land on Mars, and will conclude there was life there, since they found a solar powered car toy on the surface....That's how legends are made. Actually, this could make an awsome movie script 🙂

    May 25, 2011 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
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