Mars lander eludes searchers on Earth
From staff and wire reports
PASADENA, California -- The latest attempt to detect a signal from NASA's Mars Polar Lander has turned up nothing so far, but radio telescopes around the world will make another try this week, engineers said.
Radio telescopes in the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and California are preparing for a second set of observations Tuesday to listen for a possible signal from the $165 million lander, which disappeared while descending to Mars in December.
"We have received tremendous support from the observatories at Westerbork, Jodrell Bank and Stanford. They have been working around the clock to help us and we are grateful for their efforts," said Richard Cook, Mars lander project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
The search Tuesday will consist of two 30-minute listening windows with a two-hour "cooling down" period in between. JPL was to send a new set of commands to the spacecraft Monday night. An additional antenna near Bologna, Italy, will also be used to listen on Tuesday.
Mission managers at JPL theorize that the lander may be in a different configuration than expected, and as a result the spacecraft might not have executed or received the commands that were sent last week.
Results from the listening windows on Friday have not been conclusive. Observational data from both telescopes have been analyzed extensively, but nothing has been found to suggest transmissions from the lander.
The two telescopes have a similar sensitivity for detecting signals from the lander, and thus far all signals they have detected are thought to be of terrestrial origin.
Analysis of the data collected by a Stanford University radar has also not yielded conclusive results. Scientists there are still continuing to review the data. Analysis of the new data taken on Tuesday will take at least until the end of this week.
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Mars Polar Lander Official Website
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