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NASA tries to awaken mars rover

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only
by Staff Writers
Pasadena, Calif. (UPI) Jan 6, 2011
NASA says it is trying to re-establish communication with its stuck Mars rover Spirit after months of silence as temperatures rise during the planet's spring.

Spirit rover has been dormant since March 22, 2010, but mission controllers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., are hoping it survived the harsh martian winter and will wake up any day now, reported Thursday.

"The amount of solar energy available for Spirit is still increasing every day for the next few months," John Callas, NASA's Mars rover project manager at JPL, said. "As long as that's the case, we will do all we can to increase the chances of hearing from the rover again."

During Mars' long winter season the rover entered a hibernation-like low-power mode with almost no activity except for charging and heating its batteries and keeping its internal clock running.

With most of its other heaters turned off, Spirit's internal temperatures dropped to the coldest it's ever experienced.

That stress may have caused damage such as impaired electrical connections, controllers say, that could prevent reawakening or, if Spirit returned to operation, reduce its capabilities.

If communication is not re-established by mid-March, when the days on Mars once again grow shorter, NASA officials say they will consider it a real possibility that damage from the winter's cold has ended Spirit's mission.

Landing on Mars Jan. 4, 2004, Spirit's mission was originally designed to last for three months, but the rover has put in nearly six years of extended duty, NASA said.

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