PASADENA, Calif. (AP) _ It may be all over for Mars Pathfinder.
The spacecraft isn’t communicating with its controllers and efforts to restore contact are being cut back to only once every two weeks, Richard Cook, the Pathfinder mission manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said today.
No radio signal has been received from the lander since Oct. 7, in spite of extensive efforts to restore communications.
Pathfinder’s mission was highly successful _ from its novel landing method to detailed new martian images, atmospheric measurements, and soil samplings by the little rover Sojourner.
The spacecraft, which landed on Mars on July 4, had lasted far longer than its planned lifetime of at least 30 days. But scientists had hoped for more, especially atmospheric data as the seasons changed on Mars.
The $266 million mission was chiefly intended to test new technologies for planetary exploration.
The rover was still functioning on solar power when last heard from. However, its signals must be relayed through Pathfinder in order to reach Earth.
NASA’s exploration of the Red Planet is continuing with the Mars Global Surveyor, a mapping spacecraft that will remain in orbit.
Pathfinder was swathed in a protective cocoon of airbags when it bounced to an Independence Day landing. Then the rover stood up on one of the lander’s arms and rolled down a ramp to explore rocks and soil in the area around the landing site.