Mars Lander Presumed Dead, Despite "Lazarus Mode"

November 10, 2008

After five fruitful months, the Phoenix Mars Lander is believed to have sent its last dispatch to Earth, said NASA scientists who announced the end of the mission Monday.

There is a slight chance, though, that the lander's energy-saving "Lazarus mode" could allow Phoenix to be rise again after the long Martian winter, albeit in a limited capacity.

(Pictures: Phoenix Lander's Search for Mars Water.)

The craft might have lasted till December 2008, but frigid temperatures and lack of sunlight—largely due to a dust storm—are draining the lander's solar-powered batteries, perhaps permanently.

Researchers haven't heard a peep from the craft since November 2.

"At this time, we're pretty convinced that the vehicle is no longer is available for us to use," said Doug McCuistion, director of NASA's Mars Exploration Program.

But Phoenix scientists are in no mood to brood.

Launched in August 2007, the Phoenix Mars Mission was designed to study the water history and potential for life in the ice-rich soil near Mars's north pole.

The mission accomplished "99 percent of what we proposed to do," said mission principal investigator Peter Smith of the University of Arizona.

The lander has exceeded expectations overall, he said. The mission was to last 90 sols, or Martian days, one of which lasts 24 hours and 39 minutes. Phoenix stopped communicating after 150 sols.

"It's really an Irish wake, rather than a funeral," Mars Exploration Program director McCuistion said. "We should celebrate what Phoenix has done and what the team has done."

Lazarus Mode

Continued on Next Page >>




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