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NASA Still Trying to Re-establish Contact With Mars Global Surveyor

Since November 2nd, NASA has been unable to contact the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft. The radio silence began just before the spacecraft’s tenth year in space, and nearly five years after its original mission concluded. At this point, "preliminary indications are that a solar panel became difficult to pivot, raising the possibility that the spacecraft may no longer be able to generate enough power to communicate," but the engineers are still exploring other possibilities. Attempts to capture an image of the spacecraft by cameras on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter have, thus far, failed. As their next plan of attack, NASA engineers will try to use the Mars’ rovers as intermediaries in case the spacecraft has the power to communicate with them, but not Earth.

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I’m confused about the surveyor. Should I be angry that NASA has lost a expensive piece of equipment or did they think it would disappear five years ago, which means I should applaud them for holding onto it for so much extra time?

Now I’m not dogging NASA here, I like NASA. And they did succeed quite well with the Viking 1/2 spacecraft in the 70s not to mention the current Rovers are performing beyond expectations. But isn’t this the third Mars craft to … vanish? I think one plowed into Mars due to a unit conversion error and another just drifted off into space.

NASA has updated the original press release to indicate that they were unable to contact the spacecraft via the rovers this past Wednesday. This means its operating career is now over. To quote the article:

NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor has likely finished its operating career. The spacecraft has served the longest and been the most productive of any mission ever sent to the red planet.

"Mars Global Surveyor has surpassed all expectations," said Michael Meyer, NASA’s lead scientist for Mars exploration at NASA Headquarters, Washington. "It has already been the most productive science mission to Mars, and it will yield more discoveries as the treasury of observations it has made continues to be analyzed for years to come." Its camera has returned more than 240,000 images to Earth.

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