NASA, Stanford wait for Mars lander to phone home
January 26, 2000
Web posted at: 12:43 PM EST (1743 GMT)
From staff and wire reports
PASADENA, California (CNN) -- After determining that a weak
radio signal could have come from the Mars Polar Lander,
scientists with NASA and Stanford University will listen
Wednesday for signs that the wayward spacecraft might somehow
be alive and operating.
Mission managers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in
Pasadena instructed the lander to send a signal to an antenna
at Stanford University at about 1 p.m. (4 p.m. EST). NASA said that several days would be needed to process the data.
"This week's test is a real long-shot, and I wouldn't want to
get anyone too excited about it," Polar Lander project
manager Richard Cook said after the radio commands were sent
to Mars on Tuesday.
| MESSAGE BOARD|
NASA scientists last week officially abandoned their efforts
to locate the ill-fated $165 million lander, which
disappeared on December 3 as it started its descent to the
surface of the red planet.
After weeks of fruitless attempts to raise the lander by
radio, JPL mission controllers appeared resigned to their
second major failure on a Mars mission in three months
following the September loss of the Mars Climate Observer.
But they experienced renewed hopes this week after scientists
at Stanford University's 150 foot (45 meter) antenna reported
that a review of data revealed what might have been an
extremely weak signal from Mars during tests on December 18
and January 4.
"The signal that the Stanford team detected is definitely
artificial, but there are any one of a number of places it
could have originated on or near Earth," Cook said in a
statement released by NASA. "Still, we need to conduct this
test to rule out the possibility that the signal could be
coming from Polar Lander."
The latest set of radio signals were sent to Mars at 10 a.m.
Pacific time (1 p.m. EST) on Tuesday. They instructed the
craft, if it is operating, to send a signal to the antenna at
Stanford about 27 hours later.
"The Stanford receiving station will listen again during the
window on Wednesday to see if it picks up a signal that could
originate from Mars," NASA said.
NASA cautioned that even if the signal were coming from the
lander, there was "little hope" that any portion of the
spacecraft's original scientific mission to probe the Martian
surface for signs of water could be completed.
The signal is extremely weak, which would indicate a failure
in the lander's primary transmitter. It is unlikely that the
problem could be corrected or that data could be returned.
"However, it would give the team a few more clues in trying
to eliminate possible failure modes," the NASA statement
Reuters contributed to this report.
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January 17, 2000
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One more good chance to find Mars lander
December 6, 1999
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December 5, 1999
Mars lander misses first chance to communicate
December 3, 1999
Mars Polar Lander Official Website
Mars Exploration Program
Mars Global Surveyor
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