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NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander has ended operations after repeated attempts to contact the spacecraft were unsuccessful. A new image transmitted by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, or MRO, shows signs of severe ice damage to the lander's solar panels.
An image of Phoenix taken this month by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment, or HiRISE, camera on MRO suggests the lander no longer casts shadows the way it did during its working lifetime.

"The latest HiRISE image appears to show that a solar panel of the Phoenix lander has collapsed" - University of Arizona planetary scientist Alfred McEwen, who is the principal investigator of the HiRISE camera project.

According to McEwen, it gets so cold during the Marian winter that carbon dioxide, which accounts for 95 percent of the planet's atmosphere, forms a frost blanket up to one or more feet thick that covers the entire northern landscape each winter, including any spacecraft that might be on the surface.

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NASA and JPL said Monday they were formally closing down the Phoenix Mars Lander program after repeated attempts to contact the craft failed and new images from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter showed that it was apparently irretrievably damaged.
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Final Attempts to Hear from Mars Phoenix Scheduled

From May 17 to 21, NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter will conduct a fourth and final campaign to check on whether the Phoenix Mars Lander has come back to life.
During that period, Odyssey will listen for a signal from Phoenix during 61 flights over the lander's site on far-northern Mars. The orbiter detected no transmission from the lander in earlier campaigns totalling 150 overflights in January, February and April.
The solar-powered robot was not designed to survive through the dark and cold conditions of a Martian arctic winter. However, in case it did, NASA has used Odyssey to listen for the signals that Phoenix would transmit if abundant spring sunshine revived the lander.
Northern Mars will experience its maximum-sunshine day, the summer solstice, on May 12 (Eastern Time; May 13, Universal Time), so the sun will be higher in the sky above Phoenix during the fourth listening campaign than during any of the prior ones. Still, expectations of hearing from the lander remain low.

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Third Listening Period to Begin Monday, April 5

From April 5 through April 9, NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter will conduct a third campaign to check whether the Phoenix Mars Lander has come back to life after experiencing a Martian arctic winter it was not designed to survive.
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No Signal Heard During First Day of Resumed Listening for Phoenix

NASA's Mars Odyssey began a second campaign Monday to check on whether the Phoenix Mars Lander has revived itself after the northern Martian winter. The orbiter received no signal from the lander during the first 10 overflights of this campaign.
Odyssey will listen for Phoenix during 50 additional overflights, through Feb. 26, during the current campaign.

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NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter has completed 11 overflights, listening for the Phoenix Mars Lander on Jan. 19 and 20, without hearing anything from the lander. Nineteen more listening overflights are planned this week, and additional attempts in February and March.
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NASA to Check for Unlikely Winter Survival of Mars Lander

Beginning Jan. 18, NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter will listen for possible, though improbable, radio transmissions from the Phoenix Mars Lander, which completed five months of studying an arctic Martian site in November 2008.
The solar-powered lander operated two months longer than its three-month prime mission during summer on northern Mars before the seasonal ebb of sunshine ended its work. Since then, Phoenix's landing site has gone through autumn, winter and part of spring. The lander's hardware was not designed to survive the temperature extremes and ice-coating load of an arctic Martian winter.
In the extremely unlikely case that Phoenix survived the winter, it is expected to follow instructions programmed on its computer. If systems still operate, once its solar panels generate enough electricity to establish a positive energy balance, the lander would periodically try to communicate with any available Mars relay orbiters in an attempt to re-establish contact with Earth. During each communications attempt, the lander would alternately use each of its two radios and each of its two antennas.

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Scientists to start trying to revive long-frozen Phoenix probe

Phoenix touched down in Mars' northern plains in May 2008 and lasted for five months, exceeding its originally planned three-month mission. The robot quite literally dug up a number of scientific findings - including, perhaps, liquid water.
Eventually Phoenix succumbed to the bitterly cold winter on Mars. But now scientists are warming up to the prospect of re-establishing contact with Phoenix.

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Frost-Covered Phoenix Lander Seen in Winter Images

Phoenix1.gif
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona
Phoenix in winter As the sun began to reappear on the horizon following the deepest, darkest days of north polar winter on Mars, the HiRISE camera imaged the Phoenix landing site on July 30, 2009, (left image) and in Aug. 22, 2009 (right).


Winter images of NASA's Phoenix Lander showing the lander shrouded in dry-ice frost on Mars have been captured with the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment, or HiRISE camera, aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
The HiRISE camera team at the University of Arizona, Tucson, captured one image of the Phoenix lander on July 30, 2009, and the other on Aug. 22, 2009. That's when the sun began peeking over the horizon of the northern polar plains during winter, the imaging team said. The first day of spring in the northern hemisphere began Oct. 26.

Source NASA

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Telltale tells story of winds at Mars Phoenix landing site
Wind speeds and directions were measured for the first time in the Mars polar region using the Phoenix landers Telltale instrument. Astronomers recorded Easterly winds of approximately 15-20 kilometres per hour during the martian mid-summer. When autumn approached, the winds increased and switched round to come predominantly from the West. While these winds appeared to be dominated by turbulence, the highest wind speeds recorded of up to nearly 60 kilometres per hour coincided with the passing of weather systems, when also the number of dust devils increased by an order of magnitude.
The results are being today at the European Planetary Science Congress in Potsdam by Dr Haraldur Gunnlaugsson.
Phoenix landed in the North polar region of Mars on May 25, 2008 and operated successfully for 151 sols. The Telltale device consisted of a lightweight tube suspended on top of a meteorological mast, roughly two meters above the local surface. The onboard camera continuously imaged the deflection of the tube in the wind, taking more than 7500 images during the mission.

Europlanet



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