Fri, Jan 12, 2007
'Blue Screen Of Death' For Red Planet Probe?
NASA's Mars Global Surveyor probe outlived its original mission
plan, orbited the red planet for a decade, and sent back nearly a
quarter-million photos. While NASA acknowledges the probe was a
ringing success, the agency still wants to know why the craft
became unresponsive and stopped communicating late last year.
Doug McCuistion, director of NASA's Mars Exploration Program,
confirmed Thursday the investigation points to incorrect software
commands sent to Surveyor last June.
The intent was to re-aim Surveyor's solar panel array, but the
incorrect instruction may have turned a cooling radiator toward the
sun, and fried the spacecraft's battery.
That, NASA says, would have sent the probe into "safe" mode...
which, as PC users know, isn't as comforting as that word
"It may have overheated and lost the battery, which then would
not allow us to have adequate power to operate the spacecraft,"
McCuistion told the Associated Press.
If this turns out to be the cause, it will no doubt prompt some
pointed questions about how software uploads are checked before
they're sent to distant spacecraft. As Aero-News reported, NASA
lost contact with the probe in November.
No matter what the cause of the malfunction... NASA has given up
hope on reestablishing contact with the intrepid probe.
"We're declaring it most likely dead," McCuistion said. "I doubt
we will see it again."
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