PASADENA, California (CNN) NASA researchers said Thursday they
were unable to make contact with the Mars rover "Spirit" and the
source of the problem was unknown.
Spirit project manager Pete Theisinger told reporters there is a
"very serious anomaly" in communicating with the robot and the last
exchange of information scientists had with the craft was Wednesday
morning. Researchers continued attempting to contact the six-wheeled
rover and remained hopeful that the problem could be resolved.
Scientists initially thought a storm in Australia was keeping them
from sending signals to instruct the Spirit rover to drill into a
Mars rock. But on Thursday, the problem appeared to be more serious
than a passing storm.
The six-wheeled Spirit has sent dozens of highly-detailed pictures
of the red planet's landscape since landing in Gusev crater on
January 3 for a mission that was expected to last around 90 days.
While many sleep-deprived scientists are poring through the data
from Spirit, others are making final preparations for its rover
twin, Opportunity, to land just past midnight Saturday. Opportunity
is heading for the other side of the planet.
Each of the rovers is equipped with eight cameras designed to snap
panoramas of the Martian surface with resolutions so sharp they
retain crisp detail when blown up to the size of a movie screen,
according to NASA.
Their microscopes, spectrometers and drills could unlock geologic
secrets from billions of years ago, when scientists think the planet
might have had conditions more suitable for life.