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. Garrido

    E.T. is holding it ransom

    May 25, 2011 at 9:37 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Dougie T

    Crud. I was so hoping that they were saying that the "Atlanta 'Spirit' Group" had been sent to Mars. Too bad!

    May 25, 2011 at 9:41 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Gustavo Flores

    Spirit deserves a distinguished (space) service cross

    May 25, 2011 at 9:41 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Joe

    Uhmm.... what about the most logical reason for the rover to stop communicating? Aliens have destroyed the bot as they prepare to attack earth.

    May 25, 2011 at 9:44 pm | Report abuse |
  5. helenecha

    Can we expect that Curiosity will help with the works to continue communicating with Spirit when it's on Mars?

    May 25, 2011 at 10:04 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Spidey-Man

    I saw the first footstep on the moon when I was a kid. The Mars Rover project was equally exciting for me as an old man. The project went from three months to 7 years. Which I found amazing! I've always looked for news about the Mars Rovers. And was always amazed with how long this has gone on and the pics sent back. I'm hoping they regain contact. Maybe the Martians will put something up on YouTube.? Like... Riding it like a skateboard in a halfpipe or something?

    May 25, 2011 at 10:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • swissAussie

      Hook that puppy up with a nuclear reactor and see it go forever !!!

      May 26, 2011 at 3:21 am | Report abuse |
  7. Reg

    There's only so much you can do for a change in scenery on Mars. All them postcards Spirit's been sending are gettin mighty boring. No waterfalls, no forests, no mountain ranges, nothing really interesting so far.

    May 25, 2011 at 10:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • chris

      Visiting once is probably enough.

      May 26, 2011 at 5:32 am | Report abuse |
  8. WungToo

    Wow, is NASA just cool liek that or what? Wow.


    May 25, 2011 at 11:45 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Moe

    OK so we have destroyed planet earth and now we look for a new planet to destroy.

    May 26, 2011 at 1:55 am | Report abuse |
  10. Snarf

    Spirit did everything it could... but MARS taked it down piece by piece. He fought back and stayed alive more time than expected. Until last year.
    Lets get Opportunity to Endeavour crater and watch it there. 😀
    Go Opportunity, fight back for Spirit.

    May 26, 2011 at 3:48 am | Report abuse |
  11. Elaine

    \I want to thank all the posters here for making me laugh so hard this morning....you guys ROCK!

    May 26, 2011 at 3:51 am | Report abuse |
  12. Mr. Smart hired a bum

    Mr. Smart would have established communications, with a BUM.

    May 26, 2011 at 4:49 am | Report abuse |
  13. rolfned


    May 26, 2011 at 7:01 am | Report abuse |
  14. Hiran

    I guess it lasted longer than expected was because the Martian atmospheric conditions and other factors resemble the same of Earth or very similar. That’s why an Earth made device could have lasted about 7 years, whereas the expected life span was just 3 months!

    May 26, 2011 at 7:03 am | Report abuse |
  15. R-Mac

    Spirit and Opportunity were, no doubt, a real successful missions. But (I know most reader here will disagree, but, anyhow...) in terms of a finace project, it was a "failure"!
    I will explain... I wonder how many projects NASA (and other Federal agencies) miscalculates and spend more than necessary to accomplish the original goal. What if, for instance, the martian environment would degrade these crafts in 3-4 months? All the efforts material utilized to build these successful rovers would be of no use, overspent. But, we were all lucky! The rovers were a success!

    May 26, 2011 at 8:43 am | Report abuse |
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