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. Jerry Boyle

    Just don't call me Shirley.

    May 25, 2011 at 6:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Shirley

      What else should we call you?

      May 25, 2011 at 7:52 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Jim

    Thank you Spirit. You performed with distinction.

    May 25, 2011 at 6:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • howlyn

      Spirit: what a well-designed and crafted Mars probe. You continue to make me proud, NASA.

      May 25, 2011 at 9:10 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Hammer Time

    The pics of Mars look like terrorist training grounds...........

    May 25, 2011 at 6:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Red Rover

      Maybe that's where they're training. It's all the same. No water or grass... only rocks.

      May 25, 2011 at 7:29 pm | Report abuse |
  4. GMguy

    This rover must have been built by Ford... Built expecting it to last 3 months, surprised it lasted 7 years. 🙂

    May 25, 2011 at 7:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Red Rover

      The GM rover didn't survive getting off the ground.

      May 25, 2011 at 7:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      The toyota rover punched the gass and couldn't stop in time to land on the planet.

      May 25, 2011 at 8:18 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Mike

    Over/Under on days before Al Gore blames global warming on Mars as the reason this happened????

    May 25, 2011 at 7:06 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Bob Dylan

    It lasted longer than designed, farewell robot.

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


    May 25, 2011 at 7:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jared

      If the Chinese sent something it would not make it there due ti the fact that it is made in China. this rover was an American made product therefore its longevity.

      May 25, 2011 at 7:43 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Ruggy

    Here Rover... Here boy!

    May 25, 2011 at 7:37 pm | Report abuse |

    And this is why our country is going broke! Because we are sending rovers to mars to find NOTHING! Waste of money at its finest!

    May 25, 2011 at 7:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      Scientific research is NOT a waste of money. In fact, scientific research, including out space research should be one of the last things touched. Sadly, it's not the case.
      Also, Mars could contain materials that we on earth could exploit for our own advantages, i.e. water, minerals,

      May 25, 2011 at 8:40 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Magic

    aww, thats too bad. There's a bigger badder one coming anyways, with 20inch wheels, rims and a shiny grill, YEAH! dont forget to add LEDs on the undercarriage.

    May 25, 2011 at 8:00 pm | Report abuse |
  11. ghost intruder114

    if that happens no astronaut can go up there meaning we will never live there and how it is going to change in the next few years

    May 25, 2011 at 8:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      That's the point of sending rovers to mars, so we can learn about the planet before we commit a mission to send people to mars. When we send people to mars, they will most likely be sent in specially designed capsules able to withstand all the weather on mars. NASA scientists aren't stupid.

      May 25, 2011 at 8:44 pm | Report abuse |
  12. maurypovich

    Crazy that we are looking at a picture of Mars there...an entirely different planet that looks so familiar. Could be one of our deserts. No doubt there is intelligent life elsewhere in the Universe. Hope I live to see the day we find it.

    May 25, 2011 at 8:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • regertz

      But if it's intelligent, it surely will do everything possible to avoid us. I highly recommend shooting down the first human probe approaching your planet, guys...We are bad news.

      May 25, 2011 at 9:14 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Chris

    The sad thing is that we collectively at a nation spent more ring tones for our cell phones than on this rover. If you want to talk about a waste that is pretty much it.

    May 25, 2011 at 9:12 pm | Report abuse |
  14. regertz

    Good ole Spirit, you made us proud. And scientific research in space not only benefits mankind sciencewise, it provides good jobs at decent wages not to mention spin-off industries. And of course a permanent base on Mars would put us close to the most incredible natural sources of hydrogen and methane and minerals in the solar system. I think it's safe to predict that within one century, if we survive, our primary resources will come from the asteroid belt, Jupiter and its moons and the other outer planets.

    May 25, 2011 at 9:13 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Naggers

    We can't lose Spirit now! Not as long as there's a single Opportunity!

    May 25, 2011 at 9:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kevin

      I salute you.

      May 25, 2011 at 10:06 pm | Report abuse |
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