Mars Rover May have failed in Winter Seasons, NASA says

May 26, 2011, 08:38 by R.E. Christian

NASA says it is giving up on making contact with the Mars Rover Spirit, suspecting it has succumbed to the planet's frigid winters after seven years of work.

With inadequate energy to run its survival heaters, the rover probably experienced colder internal temperatures last year than in any of its prior six years on Mars, the agency said in a release Wednesday.

Spirit landed on Mars on Jan. 3, 2004, for a mission designed to last three months. Its twin, the rover Opportunity, is still engaged in ongoing exploration of Mars.

Communications systems used to communicate with Spirit in the past, including the Deep Space Network of antennas on Earth, are needed to prepare for the Mars Science Laboratory mission scheduled to launch later this year, NASA said.

"We're now transitioning assets to support the November launch of our next generation Mars rover, Curiosity," Dave Lavery, NASA's program head for solar system exploration, said.

"However, while we no longer believe there is a realistic probability of hearing from Spirit, the Deep Space Network may occasionally listen for any faint signals when the schedule permits."

Source: UPI