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Mars Global Surveyor is Silent:

It has been two weeks since the Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) has phoned home. On November 2 while engaged in a routine maneuver, the MGS indicated difficulty in moving the solar panels. The orbiter put itself into safe-mode awaiting instructions from the MGS team; however, it is feared the panels are now facing away from the Sun which would prevent the orbiter from receiving power.

Launched in 1996, the MGS has provided us with some wonderful views of the red planet, and provided the locations for additional study by the Mars Exploration Rovers.

Mars Global Surveyor
NASA/JPL Illustration

While this seems like bad news, the MGS has surpassed all expectations. This spacecraft was designed for 2 years of exploration - November 7, 2006 marks the 10 year anniversary of the MGS.

The MGS team is currently trying to communicate with the orbiter, attempting to redirect the panels so enough power can be generated to regain full communications (the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter was used to determine its location). Once communication is achieved, the on-board redundant systems will allow for further operations, in the event some critical electronics have been damaged. If communications fail and the orbiter looses power, it will eventually die.


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