MER Spirit, which far outlived its initial three-month lifespan. Credit: NASA/JPL
By Vandana Gupta
NASA has announced the termination of all communications with the Mars Exploration Rover, Spirit. For the past 10 months, extensive efforts to regain contact with the robotic vehicle have proven futile, and NASA decided to officially put all contact with the rover to an end on 25 May.
During the latest Martian winter, with most heaters turned off, several of Spirit’s components are believed to have been damaged as a result of the rover’s internal temperature falling to an unexpectedly low -55°C.
The power output from Spirit’s solar array seemed to have faded and put the rover into low-power hibernation mode. Engineers decided that it was highly unlikely for correspondence with the Spirit to be revived.
Spirit landed on Mars on 3 January 2004, followed three weeks later by its twin Opportunity, which continues to explore the Martian surface.
The two rovers have long outlasted what was originally a three-month operation, making important discoveries about the geology of Mars and finding evidence of a watery past.
Communications hardware that has been proven on the Spirit mission will be employed for NASA’s next-generation Mars Science Laboratory mission, Curiosity, which is expected to launch later this year.