April 14th, 2007

Mars orbiter’s loss traced to human error MSNBC

Human error triggered a cascade of events that caused the battery to fail on the Mars Global Surveyor last year, according to a preliminary report released Friday.
An internal NASA board determined that power loss likely doomed the spacecraft after almost a decade of meticulously mapping the Red Planet.
But the problems can be traced to September 2005 when a routine update to onboard computers caused inconsistencies in the spacecraft’s memory. Engineers trying to fix the problem sent incorrect software commands then didn’t catch the mistakes because the existing procedures to do so were inadequate.

April 14th, 2007

Report Reveals Likely Causes of Mars Spacecraft Loss NASA

After studying Mars four times as long as originally planned, NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor orbiter appears to have succumbed to battery failure caused by a complex sequence of events involving the onboard computer memory and ground commands.
The causes were released today in a preliminary report by an internal review board. The board was formed to look more in-depth into why NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor went silent in November 2006 and recommend any processes or procedures that could increase safety for other spacecraft.
Mars Global Surveyor last communicated with Earth on Nov. 2, 2006. Within 11 hours, depleted batteries likely left the spacecraft unable to control its orientation.
“The loss of the spacecraft was the result of a series of events linked to a computer error made five months before the likely battery failure,” said board Chairperson Dolly Perkins, deputy director-technical of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

November 12th, 2006

NASA Loses Contact With Mars Global Surveyor

NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) spacecraft has failed to check in with Earth for the fifth straight day in a row, after losing contact during a routine adjustment of its solar array.
If contact is not reestablished by Saturday, NASA might try to have another Mars-orbiting spacecraft take pictures of MGS to assess its condition.
On Nov. 2, MGS mangers sent commands for the spacecraft to adjust the position of one of its solar power arrays to better track the sun. Returning data indicated a problem with the motor that moves the array, so a backup motor and control circuitry were switched on.
No signal was received on Nov. 3 and 4, but a weak signal was received on Nov. 5, suggesting the spacecraft had switched to a safe mode and was awaiting further instructions from Earth. The signal cut out completely later that day and nothing has been heard since.

September 22nd, 2005

Orbiter’s Long Life Helps Scientists Track Changes on Mars NASA

New gullies that did not exist in mid-2002 have appeared on a Martian sand dune. That’s just one of the surprising discoveries that have resulted from the extended life of NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor, which this month began its ninth year in orbit around Mars. Boulders tumbling down a Martian slope left tracks that weren’t there two years ago. New impact craters formed since the 1970s suggest changes to age-estimating models. And for three Mars summers in a row, deposits of frozen carbon dioxide near Mars’ south pole have shrunk from the previous year’s size, suggesting a climate change in progress.

May 19th, 2005

New Photos are First of Spacecraft Orbiting Mars

A NASA spacecraft circling Mars has spied, for the first time, two of its fellow probes orbiting the red planet. Red planet veteran Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) successfully photographed NASA

May 6th, 2005

MGS Finds Viking Lander 2 and Mars Polar Lander (Maybe) Malin Space Science Systems

One of the more interesting and appealing activities of the Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) observational objectives identified in the original 1985 Mars Observer proposal was to image landers on the martian surface. The scientific goal of this objective is to place the landers into their geologic context, which in turn helps the science community to better understand the results from the landers. In addition to this, the MOC team believed that it would be “really neat” to see the landers sitting on the surface. In previous releases, we have shown images of Viking Lander 1, Mars Pathfinder, and the two Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity. To this group of landers we can now add with certainty Viking Lander 2 (VL-2), the location of which has been uncertain by many kilometers for nearly 30 years. We also believe that we have found a candidate for the location of the Mars Polar Lander, which failed without a trace on 3 December 1999.

May 2nd, 2005

Search on Again for Mars Polar Lander

The search is back on for a spacecraft that disappeared during a landing attempt nearly six years ago. And there are hints that the probe might have been found. Mars Polar Lander was headed for a touchdown near the planet

November 11th, 2004

Mars answers spur questions Rocky Mountain News

Five spacecraft are circling Mars and creeping across its ruddy surface, looking for traces of long-gone waters and signs that the cold, arid planet may once have been hospitable to life. The robotic martian invasion – three orbiters and two six-wheeled rovers – has already uncovered strong evidence that water once flowed on Mars and is now locked in subsurface ice. But big questions about water on Mars remain. When did it flow? How long did it last? How much was there? Where did it come from? Where did it go? Perhaps the most tantalizing question: Were there long-lived watery environments where microbial life could have gained a foothold?

September 28th, 2004

Mars Orbiter Spots Rover’s Tracks from Space

A spacecraft orbiting Mars photographed one of NASA’s rovers and its tracks on the surface, the space agency said Monday. The image made by a camera aboard the Mars Global Surveyor shows a dark dot identified as the rover Spirit next to giant Bonneville Crater and the thin dark line of its tracks leading back to its lander. The picture was made by rolling the entire spacecraft, adjusting its rotation rate to match the ground speed under the camera, a process that produces sharper images.

August 11th, 2004

Mars: The Nasa Mission Reports, Vol. 2 Apogee Books

This latest volume brings the exploration of Mars up to date. Including the latest results from the amazingly successful Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, as well as progress reports from the Mars Global Surveyor and Mars Odyssey missions. 416 pages with 248 pages of color images INCLUDES DVD-V / DVD-ROM.