Phoenix, a Mars lander in the Arctic regions of Mars, has stopped transmitting. It depends on solar cells for power. Very likely, declining light levels have let its battery run down.
Before long the deep winter cold of Mars will enshroud Phoenix in ice, turning it into an immobile frozen artifact. In a year’s time, when summer returns, it’s just possible that the warming sun could thaw the outspread solar panels and feed renewed energy to awaken the silent spacecraft. It’s a possibility, the Phoenix scientists and engineers say, but a remote one.
The engineers last heard a signal from Phoenix on Nov. 2. They will keep trying to pick up some faint evidence of the lander’s life for a few weeks more, but they believe it’s unlikely because the weather up north on Mars is worsening day by day, said Project Manager Barry Goldstein at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.
–David Perlman, Science Editor, San Francisco Chronicle
The Phoenix mission was planned for three months; the lander has been operating for five. It gathered more data than scientists expected it to.