Faint whisper from Mars could be lost lander
January 27, 2000
Web posted at: 11:09 AM EST (1609 GMT)
From staff and wire reports
PASADENA, California (CNN) -- NASA will send commands to the
Mars Polar Lander again Thursday after a mysterious faint
signal was picked up by a radio dish at Stanford University
the day before.
Mission scientists warned that in the unlikely event that
they find the lost lander alive and operating, the spacecraft
would never be able to carry out its mission to search for
water and ice near the red planet's south pole.
"The signals that were received were like a whisper among a
lot of static," Mars Lander project manager Richard Cooke
told reporters Wednesday.
| MESSAGE BOARD|
"The circumstantial evidence indicates that the signals came
from Mars, and if that is the case there is a good chance
they came from the Lander," he added.
Processing of data collected by the Stanford dish was
expected to take days, said Mary Hardin, a spokeswoman for
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Mission controllers 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.
A set of radio signals was sent to Mars on Tuesday. They
instructed the spacecraft to send a signal to the antenna at
Stanford on Wednesday.
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," a NASA statement said.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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December 5, 1999
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December 3, 1999
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