Bid to mend link with Mars probe

Nasa scientists were yesterday trying to regain contact with a space probe around Mars. The space agency lost touch with Mars Global Surveyor as they were celebrating ten years since it was launched.

Artist's impression of MGSFor nearly a decade it has carried out a detailed examination of Mars, operating longer than any other probe sent there. The mission was initially scheduled to last just one year.

Problems began earlier this month when the unmanned spacecraft reported problems turning one of its solar panels. Automatic software on board immediately switched to a back-up system.

A brief signal received on November 5 indicated that the probe had gone into a safe mode and was awaiting fresh instructions from Earth. Since then they have been unable to establish any form of contact with it but engineers have not given up hope.

Project manager Tom Thorpe, of Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, said: “The spacecraft has many redundant systems that should help us get it back into a stable operation. But first we need to re-establish communications.”

One option that Nasa is considering is to try to photograph the stricken probe from another craft, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, when it flies past it at a distance of around 60 miles this week.

Mars Global Surveyor began its mission to the Red Planet on November 7, 1996. Its achievements include the discovery of many young gullies apparently cut by flowing water and water-related mineral deposits. Picture: Nasa.

Paul Sutherland

Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.
Paul Sutherland

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Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.

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