NASA's Mars Global Surveyor, the longest serving and most productive spacecraft to ever study the red planet, appears to have abruptly ended its mission. The probe lost contact with Earth on November 2, and multiple attempts to reestablish communication using both Earth- and Mars-based equipment have failed.
The spacecraft has had a long and rewarding career since launching on November 7, 1996, sending back more than 240,000 images that have provided planetary maps of unprecedented detail, evidence of recent water on the Martian surface, and insights into Mars's atmospheric and geological makeup.
"Mars Global Surveyor has surpassed all expectations," Michael Meyer, lead scientist for Mars exploration at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C., said in a statement. "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."
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Illustration courtesy NASA/JPL